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Carolina Panthers Complete Wide Receiver Makeover with First Round Draft Pick

The Carolina Panthers selected a wide receiver with their first round pick, giving Bryce Young another weapon.
Panthers Draft Grade

The Carolina Panthers selected a wide receiver with their first-round pick. Since free agency kicked off, the Panthers have focused on remaking their offense and getting Bryce Young more protection and weapons.

Carolina Panthers Complete Wide Receiver Makeover with First-Round Draft Pick

Diontae Johnson Trade

After shoring up the interior offensive line, the Panthers traded away cornerback Donte Jackson and the 178th overall pick for Diontae Johnson and the 240th pick. Those picks translated to defensive tackle Logan Lee for the Steelers and Michael Barrett for the Panthers. 

Johnson will immediately slot in as the Panthers’ number-one outside receiver, something the team was lacking in 2023. Despite not recording a 1,000-yard season since 2021, he is coming off his most efficient season, recording nearly 14 yards per reception. Additionally, he has become more consistent catching the ball, dropping only two catches after averaging over 10 drops per season from 2020 to 2022.

Drafting Xavier Legette

After trading away their 2023 first-round pick to draft Bryce Young, Panthers fans were prepared to skip the first round of the NFL Draft. Instead, Dan Morgan decided to get in on the Day 1 action, trading up one spot with the Buffalo Bills to get the last pick in the first round. With that pick, the Panthers selected Xavier Legette from South Carolina. How does this move benefit the Panthers?

Why trade up?

With the Panthers moving up one spot, it initially seems strange to make the trade for a receiver that would have likely fallen to them at the 33rd pick. However, moving into the first round was crucial for solidifying their receiving room for years to come. 

By doing so, the Panthers will get a fifth-year option with Legette, allowing them to keep him for longer if he develops as they hope. Additionally, it creates a succession plan for Adam Thielen’s inevitable departure and for the possibility of losing Johnson after his contract expires. 

Xavier Legette’s Impact

Xavier Legette entered the NFL Draft as a fifth-year senior who missed time in 2020 due to the pandemic and in 2021 because of a motorcycle accident. He had minimal impact on offense until 2023 when he was one of two SEC players to average over 100 yards per game. 

With a 77.5-inch wingspan, Legette brings a solid catch radius that will make him a big target for Bryce Young. He ran under 4.40 seconds in his 40-yard dash at the combine, demonstrating his ability to get down the field. According to PFF, he was the seventh highest-graded receiver in this year’s draft class. 

He also brings versatility, something the Panthers desperately need. He will primarily line up outside, but can also work out of the slot and get moving on jet sweeps. After only starting one season in college, he still has room to develop, but overall should have an immediate impact on a Panthers team that needs juice.

Expect the Panthers’ three-receiver formations to include plenty of Johnson, Thielen, and Legette, as they look to Legette to stretch the field and Johnson and Thielen to work in the shallow and intermediate areas of the field.

Main Image: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports


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