Carolina Panthers Rookie Forecast 2024

Xavier Legette - Panthers Rookie Forecast - Featured Image

Solid Starter

Jonathon Brooks, RB, Texas – Round 2

A year ago the Panthers gave veteran Miles Sanders a nice contract in free agency, but he was a big disappointment in his first season with Carolina. Veteran Chuba Hubbard didn’t play poorly, but he has some limitations and is best as a rotational back. Plus, Hubbard is entering the last year of his contract. Carolina general manager Dan Morgan was thinking long-term with the help of his second-year quarterback Bryce Young in taking a running back like Brooks that could be an impact starter.

There is a lot to like about Brooks for the NFL as he looks like a potential three down starter that can be the bell cow of a rushing offense. Brooks demonstrates very good running fundamentals and his natural running instincts are advanced. Brooks has patience in spades to let holes develop and his patience is phenomenal. On top of being willing to wait, Brooks has the vision to see lanes about to come open, and good body lean to run behind his pads. In the open field Brooks has a second gear to break off long runs and once he decides to go downhill he has a burst to hit the hole quickly before it closes up. Brooks’ burst is impressive for a big back as he has some serious explosion in the open field.

Brooks tends to run North-South, but he shows some elusiveness to dodge tacklers. With power and body lean, Brooks does run through contact keeping his legs going and finishes runs well. In the NFL, Brooks should be a solid back to pick up yards after contact as he has good overall balance, strength, knee bend, and is able to run behind his pads. In short yardage and goal line, Brooks has the power and build to get the job down.

In the passing game, Brooks was solid in 2023 showing a nice outlet ability. He did well on screens and showed some nice, soft hands.

Brooks is coming off a torn ACL that he suffered last November, and he will need time learning his playbook along with blitz protection. It might take a year of development, but Brooks is a very talented running back and he could be a good starter once he’s healthy.

2023: Jonathan Mingo, WR
2022: Ikem Ekownu, OT
2021: Terrace Marshall Jr, WR
2020: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE
2019: Brian Burns, DE
2018: D.J. Moore, WR
2017: Curtis Samuel, WR
2016: Daryl Worley, CB
2015: Shaq Thompson, LB
2014: Trai Turner, G
2013: Kawann Short, DT

Most Likely To Bust

Trevin Wallace, LB, Kentucky – Round 3

The Panthers had a really nice draft under Morgan in his first year guiding Carolina as their general manager. Of all the picks they made in the first four rounds, Wallace was the only one that looked like a player with some risk. Wallace has a really good skill set and flashed playmaking ability for the Cats in 2023, but he did always produce up to his talent level in college and I question his instincts. Even if Wallace does not end up becoming a starter, I think he could at least be a solid backup and special teams contributor. Of the Panthers early-round picks, Wallace was the only one that looked like a player with some bust potential.

2023: D.J. Johnson, OLB
2022: Matt Corral, QB
2021: Brady Christensen, OT
2020: Jeremy Chinn, S
2019: Will Grier, QB
2018: Rashaan Gaulden, CB
2017: Daeshon Hall, DE
2016: James Bradberry, DB
2015: Devin Funchess, WR
2014: Kelvin Benjamin, WR
2013: Edmund Kugbila, G

Potential Boom Pick

Xavier Legette, WR, South Carolina – Round 1

After trading D.J. Moore to move up for the No. 1 overall-pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Carolina had a hole at wide receiver. They added some veterans in Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark, but they still needed some long-term weapons for new franchise quarterback Bryce Young. With their selection of Jonathan Mingo in the second round, the Panthers came away with a player that has starting potential in the long-term. This offseason they added veteran Diontae Johnson in a trade with the Steelers, but Carolina still lacked a long-term No. 1 receiver for Young. That issue could be solved with their selection of Legette to close out the first round.

For the NFL, Legette (6-3, 227) is tall, strong, and has surprising speed for a big receiver. With his size, Legette is a red-zone weapon and provides a size mismatch for the NFL. However he has enough speed to generate separation downfield and a surprising burst to run away from the defense. Legette can run well to work on defenses vertically and threaten them at all levels. He is a long-strider with a second gear that can explode in the open field with the shear speed to out race defenders. There is no doubt that Legette has above average speed for a big wide out.

Legette was a one-year wonder and has some rawness to his game. Thus, he could use development and should not be expected to be an elite No. 1 immediately. However Legette has a great skill set with a ton of upside. Legette also is known to be a good kid and a hard worker. If the Panthers coach him up well, Legette has boom pick potential for Carolina.

2023: Bryce Young, QB
2022: None
2021: Jaycee Horn, CB
2020: Derrick Brown, DT
2019: Greg Little, OT
2018: Donte Jackson, CB
2017: Christian McCaffrey, RB
2016: Vernon Butler, DT
2015: Darryl Williams, OL
2014: Kony Ealy, DE
2013: Star Lotulelei, DT

Future Depth Player

Ja’Tavion Sanders, TE, Texas – Round 4

Carolina added a steal in the fourth round with Sanders. He was a real receiving weapon for the Longhorns over the past two seasons and was dangerous with the ball in his hands. It was a surprise that he slid to the fourth round but a stroke of good luck for the Panthers. Perhaps Sanders lacks the blocking ability to be a three-down starter, but even if that is the case he could be a nice No. 2 or 3 tight end that rotates into the game to contribute as a receiving option.

2023: Jammie Robinson, DB
2022: Brandon Smith, LB
2021: Chuba Hubbard, RB
2020: Stantley Thomas-Oliver, CB
2019: Christian Miller, LB
2018: Ian Thomas, TE
2017: Corn Elder, CB
2016: Zach Sanchez, CB
2015: Cameron Artis-Payne, RB
2014: Tre Boston, S
2013: Kenjon Barner, RB