Grading the Carolina Panthers’ 2021 Draft picks

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2021 Draft Pick
CLEVELAND, OHIO - APRIL 29: A fan holds a jersey as Jaycee Horn is announced as the eighth pick by the Carolina Panthers during round one of the 2021 NFL Draft at the Great Lakes Science Center on April 29, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Yes, the draft didn’t pan out as I expected, but there were still plenty of good picks that came from it, so let’s look. Matt Rhule still needs to prove and possibly surpass the notion of being the fourth-best coach the team has had. So, we are going to grade every Carolina Panthers pick from the draft according to how they are going to help this team moving forward.

Grading the Carolina Panthers’ 2021 Draft Picks

Round 1(pick 8): Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina (B+)

I wasn’t too sure about Horn as the first pick the Panthers made in the draft simply because they spent so much time on defense during the last draft. I wanted them to focus on the offensive side of the ball.

Having said that, Horn has an ability to battle with some of the NFL future stars like former Alabama star running back, Najee Harris, who made a name for himself as one of his college’s weapons adding 13 and 26 touchdowns respectively his last two seasons.

One thing to be cautious about, which is why this pick gets a B and not an A, is his ability to adjust from college to the pros. On paper, he has the tools that he needs but the question remains of how well he produces on an NFL team. Still a top prospect though, this 2021 draft pick gets a B.

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Round 2 (59 from CLE): Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU (C)

I like this pick. The only thing I worry about is how effective he will be at an already loaded position.

This 2021 draft pick has everything a wide receiver needs to be successful at the next level. When you add to it an offensive coordinator that has worked with him before, you’re talking about a level of chemistry that most receivers never even get the opportunity to take advantage of.

But also consider the number of people who are already in line for a spot in certain positions. With Robby Anderson at the one and D.J. Moore at the two, there’s a big question of where exactly Marshall Jr. fits into the conversation. He did make 23 touchdown receptions in 2019 and 2020, but he’s also struggled with some injuries in high school and college.

The Panthers could sign him to the practice squad or possibly to the number three which is the only reason he didn’t get a higher grade.

Round 3 (70 from PHI): Brady Christensen, OT, BYU (A)

Outside of the fact that offensive linemen normally don’t get picked early, I’m not sure why he got picked so late.

Christensen protected Zach Wilson‘s blindside while at BYU, which is why I’m sure he’ll be the right man for the job if given the opportunity in Carolina. His ability to open up the run lane is something I’m most excited about as there are now two running backs (hopefully) that need a fast, big body upfront to protect them.

Looking at the New York Jets’ offensive line didn’t provide much confidence in terms of taking care of Carolina’s newly acquired quarterback, Sam Darnold, but I am hoping that this 2021 draft pick provides some level of that for him.

Round 3 (83 from CHI): Tommy Tremble, TE, Notre Dame (B)

When we talk about the 2021 draft picks, this is probably my favorite. Not only did the Panthers address an important need on offense, but they made sure to attempt to draft a guy that would be both physical in blocking and in his ability to complete catches.

He is 6’3″ tall and is a physical blocker, arguably the best in this year’s draft class. The Panthers could really use that type of physicality on their team. He didn’t score much over his two years in college but that is something they can work on with him.

Round 4 (126 from TEN): Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State (B+)

This guy is FAST. He isn’t Tyreek Hill fast but his running reminds me of Christian McCaffrey whose 40-yard dash time was actually 0.01 second slower than his. Hubbard and McCaffrey together in the backfield could be potentially dangerous for opposing teams.

His 2,094 rushing yards in 2019 were impressive and, watching his film, it is clear that his team valued him. He is also good with his hands, adding three touchdown receptions to his resume. If he can keep that same energy coming into the NFL and with that sort of productivity, he could have a very lucrative career.

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Round 5 (158 from NE through HOU): Daviyon Nixon, DT, Iowa (B)

They call him unblockable and I’m pretty sure I understand why. When you watch his film, you see a guy who has grasped the concept of getting to the quarterback. And no one is stopping him. Obviously coming into the league is a different story, but his potential is high.

His hands are active and his tackles are a grueling task for others to avoid. He had 19 tackles for losses and 8.5 sacks in two seasons at Iowa. Adding him to the Panthers’ defense has the potential to get them back atop the defensive mountain once again.

Round 5 (166 from TEN): Keith Taylor, CB, Washington (C-)

As we work towards the end of these 2021 draft picks, the players need more work, as is the case with Washington.

He does have the physicality and is a solid tackler, but the biggest knock on him is that his aggressive nature can get the better of him. Also, his hands are too busy sometimes and he isn’t aware of where the ball is. These are all things that Carolina can help him to develop but in the time that it will take to get him to gain those skills, and with Carolina in the second year of the rebuilding, this is just a risky move.

Round 6 (193): Deonte Brown, OG, Alabama (C-)

Brown is my sleeper pick. He has aggressive behavior that works well on the offensive line. Plus, adding all these young guys to this team is a necessary component of rebuilding. Not to mention that the line–on both sides of the ball–need to begin to thrive.

This guy is 345 pounds and would probably need to lose some weight and work on his agility, said Pro Football Network’s Ian Cummings. Even with that, he still brings a youthful energy to the offense whether it be on the first string or practice squad. Offensive linemen, who are generally some of the smartest players on their teams, become a critical part of winning as well. Brown has worked with great coaches and if nothing else, made this Carolina team believe in him, even if just for the time being.

Round 6 (204 from CHI): Shi Smith, WR, South Carolina (D)

This is one of the 2021 draft picks I have an issue with, solely based on the fact that Carolina already has options at the wide receiver position. He’s going to end up on the practice squad as the fourth or fifth option unless they decide to release him.

If he does end up on the practice squad, he should work on his speed both off the snap and running his routes. He is running a 4.43 40-yard dash which, for the special breed of current star receivers running at high speeds, that’s going to be hard for him to do unless he can use HIS speed to his advantage.

Round 6 (222): Thomas Fletcher, LS, Alabama (A)

This 2021 draft pick is the safest of them all and therefore gets top marks in this draft.

J.J. Jansen is by no means on his way out the door unless by his own accord.  So what Fletcher can do is sit behind him, learn, and become the next man up. Long snappers are players too but unfortunately, there aren’t many in the league as other positions. This is a chance for Carolina to solidify themselves at every level of the game. And besides, if he can accurately snap a ball 37 yards then he’s someone you’d like to keep around.

Round 7 (232): Phil Hoskins, DT, Kentucky (C)

The Hudl calls him a man amongst boys so it will be interesting to see how he brings that to the league.

His stats probably don’t tell the full story of who he is and, if Carolina does decide to keep him, he will be on the practice squad, most definitely. It is always good to have depth in this position especially given the number of injuries that happen during any given season. Hoskins will hopefully utilize his time in Carolina to develop the skills he has at the defensive tackle position.

What’s next for the Carolina Panthers?

This was a better draft class than I thought it was going to be. It wasn’t the order that I thought it should be but the necessities that should have been addressed were.

But, we may see a drastic change in the week one NFL betting odds if the league plans on having no fans.

It is always exciting, looking at what Carolina is trying to do each season. And after drafting the first-ever group of all defense, it was nice to see some sort of normalcy with the picks. Every year it is up to each individual player to make the most of their own experience.

If they want to belong to the Carolina Panthers, a family has to come first. The rest will take care of itself.

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