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WR and TE targets at 39, 93, and beyond

Josh Downs

CHARLOTTE — All the attention surrounding the Panthers' upcoming draft has been around that first pick, which will be used on a quarterback.

But the Panthers have other needs — and other picks — as they try to fill out the roster heading into the season.

We're taking a look at those needs and how the rest of their picks could be used to fill them.

Other than the first one, the Panthers have five other picks this year, beginning with their own second-rounder (39th overall), San Francisco's third-rounder (93rd), two fourths (114th and 132nd), and a fifth (145th).

So here's a look at two of the positions they could look to address and some of the possibilities with those picks (We'll hit some of the other positions of need in the coming days).


Why it's a need: The Panthers went for some stability in free agency, signing veteran Adam Thielen to a three-year deal. But he's the only receiver on the roster who is under contract beyond the 2024 season, so they clearly want to add some young bodies to the position.

By bringing in veteran DJ Chark Jr. on a one-year deal, they also added a downfield speed option to go along with holdovers, including Terrace Marshall Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr.. But there's room for a number of newcomers (there are eight on the roster right now, and they usually carry 12 or so through the offseason), and it's clearly a spot they'll look to add at some point in the draft.

Possibilities at 39: From talking to evaluators around the league, there's not a lot of consensus about the class of receivers. While there are a few top prospects, there's not even a high degree of agreement about the order.

Ohio State's Jaxon Smith-Njigba is considered to be a top-half-of-the-first-round player, but beyond him, the wheres and the whens of the rest of the class are unclear.

For a point of reference,'s Eric Edholm's list of top 100 prospects includes Boston College's Zay Flowers at No. 18, TCU's Quentin Johnston at No. 26, and Southern Cal's Jordan Addison at No. 28. But not every evaluator is convinced they'll all be first-rounders. So that leaves a little space of possibility at the top of the second for a highly graded player to slide.

Edholm's list also includes UNC's Josh Downs at No. 38 and Tennessee's Jalin Hyatt at No. 41, clearly in the range that makes them realistic possibilities.

Jalin Hyatt

But all those guys are different enough that it changes the way you think of them. Johnston's a massive target, while Flowers and Addison have shown the ability to operate out of the slot. While Thielen's an accomplished slot receiver, he's not limited to that role. So if they find a target who can work there, that's an intriguing possibility.

Downs draws comparisons to a certain guy who used to play here named Steve Smith Sr. because of his size and toughness. That's always going to interest people, along with the local hook.

Hyatt's a classic burner, who ran a 4.40-second 40 at the combine, which might have actually been slower than people expected based off his game tape.

Possibilities at 93 and beyond: The Panthers went into Day 3 of last year's draft looking for a project with some return ability, and when they didn't find the particular guys they were looking for, they signed veteran return man Andre Roberts. A knee injury kept him from producing to his previous levels, but the need for someone like him remains.

Returns are becoming less and less of a priority each year with rules changes that deemphasize them in the name of player safety, but there are still some intriguing options that include return ability.

Houston's Tank Dell is tiny (5-8, 165) but makes plays (14 touchdowns in his last nine games in college). His combination of quickness and top-end speed makes him interesting to consider. Depending on which way they go at 39 (this doesn't feel like an all-offense or all-defense draft, based on previous roster moves), he's a consideration.


Why it's a need: Adding Hayden Hurst on a three-year deal in free agency gives them a certain stability, but he's also 29 years old and the one known commodity on the roster.

The Panthers have a curious mix of skills in that room, with a solid blocker in Ian Thomas and the versatile Tommy Tremble, fullback-special teamer Giovanni Ricci and Stephen Sullivan (who might be the most interesting prospect based on the upside). But none of them did enough in the past to knock the position from the top range of the free agent shopping list.

So they have to consider a deep class here at the position.

Luke Musgrave

Possibilities at 39: Players such as Notre Dame's Michael Mayer (a seemingly safe all-around prospect) and Utah's Dalton Kincaid will likely be off the board (though there are injury concerns in Kincaid's file).

Oregon State's Luke Musgrave is coming off a knee injury but has been a highly productive pass-catcher. Georgia's monstrous Darnell Washington (6-7, 264) is another player who should be in this range, and his near-lineman frame could make for an interesting pairing with Hurst. Iowa's Sam LaPorta could also be near this range, with the kind of all-around game that should make him a regular in the league for some time.

The Panthers have enough other needs that it might be harder to justify this pick here. Still, the position is increasingly valuable to modern offenses, and they're often the easiest way to help a young quarterback feel comfortable.

Darnell Washington

Possibilities at 93 and beyond: The class at this position is deep, and plenty of people think you'll be able to find contributors well into the fourth and fifth rounds.

Some smaller-school players, such as South Dakota State's Tucker Kraft and Old Dominion's Zack Kuntz are part of a wide range of players.

Again, there's depth at this position, and the Panthers could invest here for the future with a later pick.

Follow along with Hayden Hurst through the facility as he met staff and coaches and officially signed his contract to become a Panther.

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