Panthers Draft: 4 early first-round candidates in 2021

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) Penei Sewell
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) Penei Sewell /
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Matt Rhule, Panthers Draft
(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) Matt Rhule /

It is never too early to look at incoming draft prospects for the Carolina Panthers, but which players are worth keeping an eye on for 2021?

The Carolina Panthers used their 2020 NFL Draft picks wisely. But the franchise is in a period of transition and any immediate success should not take them away from building once again with more impressive college recruits next year.

The Panthers draft team became the first in NFL history to use each pick on defensive players. That will almost definitely not be the case next time around. But it remains to be seen where and how Carolina needs to strengthen their roster in pursuit of long-term gains.

There were plenty of college prospects that caught the eye last season who are not yet eligible for the pros. Scouts will already have some earmarked and will be watching their progress heavily when competitive action gets back underway.

This will also be the process surrounding the Panthers draft, which is going to be the second under new head coach Matt Rhule. The former Baylor shot-caller has a relatively free hit in 2020 given the lack of expectations surrounding the franchise. But there is no doubt he is going to be judged with two drafts under his belt.

The Panthers may have more experienced veterans leave the franchise to free up additional funds next year. What they need to replace is going to go a long way to determine what areas the organization needs to prioritize.

Another element will be exactly how they get on in 2020. It is expected to be a season of struggle and where they land on the draft board could also alter their way of thinking.

Here are four prospects that the Panthers draft staff need to monitor next season.