Skip to main content

Final Grades: How the national publications see the Panthers 2024 draft class


The Carolina Panthers are one step closer to shaping their 2024 team. Over the weekend, the Panthers added seven new players through the NFL draft, including a first-round receiver after a surprise late night trade.

Rookies will be on hand next weekend for rookie minicamp, but first, let's take a look at how pundits and writers around the country feel the Panthers fared in the draft, with this roundup of draft grades.

Grade: B

Grader: Chad Reuter

ANALYSIS: Carolina gave up what eventually turned into the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft as part of last year's trade to select quarterback Bryce Young. The Panthers moved up a spot to pick Legette at the end of Round 1. He will need to show he was a better pick than several other receivers selected in the second round. Brooks should be an excellent back once recovered from his knee injury. Wallace was an excellent value in Round 3 and can take over for Frankie Luvu, who exited in free agency.


Grade: C

Grader: Trevor Sikkema

Legette — Carolina trades into the first round to take Legette, who broke out in 2023 after several nondescript seasons. Legette impressed all season with his strength and speed in an offense where he was the only legitimate threat. He consistently won downfield, posting an FBS-leading 97.7 PFF receiving grade on 10-plus yard throws. The Panthers add their second legitimate weapon at wide receiver to go along with Diontae Johnson.

Brooks — Brooks has ideal size, speed, strength and agility but tore his ACL in 2023, which will raise concerns about his ability to contribute in 2024. Brooks earned a career-best 91.5 PFF grade in 2023, fourth among Power Five running backs, and forced a career-high 63 missed tackles.

Wallace — Wallace is being drafted highly because of his athleticism, so it's not too shocking to see him coming off the board on Day 2. That said, the production wasn't there in college, with Wallace earning just a 61.4 run-defense grade and a 58.6 PFF coverage grade in 2023. He absolutely can develop in the NFL, but there will be some work to do to get him there.

Sanders — Sanders was a key cog in Texas' potent offense in 2023. He posted a 91.3 grade on contested targets and did not drop a single catchable target, both class-leading marks.

Smith-Wade — The Panthers have focused on offense in this draft, but they get good value here at cornerback after trading away Donte Jackson earlier this offseason. Smith-Wade earned PFF grades of at least 70.0 in each of the past three seasons. He allowed just one touchdown in coverage and forced nine incompletions last season.

Crumedy — Crumedy doesn't provide a ton of pass-rush upside, with just 64 quarterback pressures across 1,149 career pass-rush snaps at Mississippi State. But he is a solid interior presence against the run, having earned PFF run-defense grades above 74.0 in each of the past two seasons.

Barrett — Barrett ranked 198th on PFF's big board, so this is an excellent value selection. He was one of the leaders and captains for Michigan, and his 84.3 PFF grade ranked ninth among FBS linebackers. He is a consistent player in both run defense and coverage. Carolina is getting a three-down linebacker who played against offenses of all types in his time as a Wolverine.

Grade: B-

Grader: Mel Kiper Jr.

Top needs entering the draft: Wide receiver, center, edge defender

It's difficult to start here without mentioning what the Panthers don't have in this draft, and that's the No. 1 overall pick. They traded their 2024 first-rounder a year ago to move up for quarterback Bryce Young, a move that didn't work out as Young struggled and Carolina went 2-15. In hindsight, it looks like a bad deal, but there's plenty of time for Young to turn it around and for this franchise to get back on track under new coach Dave Canales. It's worth noting that while I have Caleb Williams rated higher than Young in my pre-draft evaluations, Young's 2023 grade is similar to Jayden Daniels' and Drake Maye's this year. He can be a great player with support around him.

The Panthers were active on the first two days of the draft, making four trades, two down and two up the board. They ended up with two players who will directly help Young in Xavier Legette (32) and Jonathon Brooks (46). Legette, my sixth-ranked wideout, put up 1,255 yards in a breakout season. Carolina needed an injection of youth and talent in its wide receiver room, and Legette will give the offense some juice after the catch. Brooks is my top-ranked running back, a powerful and quick runner who is coming off a torn ACL. As I wrote Friday night, I expect him to make fantasy football managers happy in 2024.

Ja'Tavion Sanders (101) is a toolsy tight end in a 6-4 frame. I thought he was a little faster when I watched tape -- he ran a 4.69-second 40-yard dash at the combine -- but he caught 99 passes in his Texas career. I see him getting early snaps for an offense that has to get better outlets for Young. Linebacker Trevin Wallace (72) went about two rounds higher than I had rated him, but he has some stickiness in coverage against tight ends. One under-the-radar asset Carolina added in its trades on Friday was a 2025 second-rounder from the Rams. I'm a fan of these types of deals for teams that aren't close to contending.

It's difficult to go much higher for Carolina with this grade, but if the organization's priority was to help Young in 2024, it did a decent job.

Grade: B-

Grader: Pete Prisco


Best Pick: Fourth-round tight end Ja'Tavion Sanders from Texas has the skills to be a big-time pass catcher. He isn't a blocking tight end, but even though he didn't time well him the 40, he plays fast.

Worst Pick: I like Jonathon Brooks as a player, but why take a running back in the second round with so many other needs? The thinking is to probably help Bryce Young, but they had other needs.

The Skinny: They didn't have a first-round pick -- traded away in the Young deal -- but they still ended up with one by trading up to land receiver Xavier Legette in the first round. They then moved around in the second and third to add extra picks, which I liked, and added good players like third-round linebacker Trevin Wallace and Sanders. Legette has to be Young's go-to guy.

Grade: A-

2024 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Carolina did a good job of finding talent to surround Young in this draft, so if Young continues to struggle, we know it's on him and not the supporting cast, which was lackluster during his rookie campaign.

Xavier Legette and Ja'Tavion Sanders are promising pass-catchers, and they should be able to complement Diontae Johnson and Adam Thielen well. Jonathon Brooks figures to be a long-term starting running back, though his career will begin slowly because he's coming off a torn ACL.

The Panthers focused on the defensive side of the ball for most of Day 3. They found some good values in that regard, including fifth-round cornerback Chau Smith-Wade, who can help replace the traded Donte Jackson.

I really like this draft for the Panthers, and it should be graded highly despite the team not possessing a first-round pick at the beginning of the weekend.


Grader: Matt Verderame

ANALYSIS: I was a fan of this draft because the Panthers followed up on their offseason plan to get Bryce Young back on solid ground. After bulking up the guard play in free agency, Carolina went after the kind of targets who will produce yards after the catch or move the football with loaded boxes. This is a gift for any young quarterback.

Take a closer look at all seven new Panthers draftees from first-rounder Xavier Legette to seventh-rounder Michael Barrett from their stellar collegiate runs.

Related Content