Panthers put more offensive playmakers around young QB Bryce Young in NFL draft

CHARLOTTE — Carolina Panthers new coach Dave Canales has emphasized to Bryce Young that he shouldn’t feel as if he has to do it all by himself this upcoming season.

Carolina backed up that talk in the NFL draft by continuing to put more players around Young to make the young QB’s job easier.

The Panthers used three of their first four picks on skill position players, selecting South Carolina wide receiver Xavier Legette in the first round and running back Jonathon Brooks and tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders from Texas in the second and fourth rounds in hopes of bolstering an offense that finished last in the league in scoring and yards.

Along the way, new Panthers general manager Dan Morgan used a series of trades — four in the first two days — to restock the team’s draft capital.

Carolina entered this year’s draft with no first-round pick after former GM Scott Fitterer traded away four picks last year to get Young, including what ended up being the No. 1 overall selection. Morgan managed to get one of those picks back — a second-rounder in 2025 — in one of the deals.

“I didn’t come in saying we’ve got to get that (second-round pick) back,” he said. “When it presented itself, we thought it was a really good opportunity. Hey, we can get that two back. I would say we felt good about that. ... That kind of set us up for the future a little bit.”

The Panthers also selected Kentucky linebacker Trevin Wallace in the third round, Washington State cornerback Chau Smith-Wade in the fifth, Mississippi State defensive tackle Jaden Crumedy in the sixth and Michigan linebacker Michael Barrett in the seventh.


Legette didn’t exceed 18 catches in a season during his first four years at South Carolina. However, the 6-foot-2, 221-pound wideout emerged from the shadows this past season with 71 receptions for 1,255 yards and seven touchdowns, going from relative unknown to first-round draft pick.

“A year ago, I wasn’t on anybody’s board, but I never let that get to me,” Legette said. “I knew I had another year.”


Brooks was the first running back off the board at No. 46. It was the second-longest wait for a running back to be selected in the NFL draft behind Bishop Sankey, who was taken No. 54 in 2014.

While running backs have been devalued across the league, the Panthers say they still place an emphasis on them.

“Every team that I have been on, we used all of our running backs at different points because it’s just such a violent position,” Canales said. “We look for those players who can handle that. But we are going to run the ball. It’s going to be a non-negotiable for us. This gives us a real chance to add another good runner to the mix.”

Brooks will battle with Chuba Hubbard and Miles Sanders for playing time.


Morgan drew on his own background as a Panthers linebacker to select Wallace in the third round.

“Athletic freak, a guy that can run sideline to sideline, strike ball carriers, and I think his ceiling is really high,” Morgan said. “I think he’s a guy that’s going to develop, keep developing and turn into a good linebacker for us.”


Edge rusher was considered a need for Carolina entering the draft even after addressing that in free agency, but the team didn’t draft one.

“We identified some holes coming into the draft, coming into free agency,” Morgan said. “Listen, you can’t fill every single hole all at once, whether free agency, the draft, you wish you could. But we’re still building this thing.”


The Panthers hadn’t drafted a player from Texas since their initial draft in 1995 when they selected offensive tackle Blake Brockermeyer in the first round. This year, they took two Longhorns (Brooks and Sanders) in their first four picks.


It flew mostly under the radar because of the NFL draft, but the Panthers quietly announced they picked up the fifth-year option on cornerback Jaycee Horn’s contract. The first-round pick in 2021 has been good when he’s played, but has been limited to just 22 of a possible 51 games because of injuries.

“He’s had some tough stretches with injuries, but it’s not due to a lack of work or a lack of commitment from Jaycee,” Morgan said.

(WATCH BELOW: NFL Draft: Panthers add linebacker, running back to team’s arsenal)