5 running backs the Panthers could target in the 2021 NFL Draft

(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports) Javonte Williams
(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports) Javonte Williams /
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Carolina Panthers
(Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports) Michael Carter /

Michael Carter – North Carolina

The other half of North Carolina’s dynamic backfield duo, Michael Carter gashed ACC defenses to the tune of 1,512 yards from scrimmage and 11 total touchdowns in 2020. That production would be impressive for any player in an 11-game season, but considering he split carries with Javonte Williams, it stands out even more.

Carter is a slight 5-foot-8, 202 pounds whose agility and elusiveness in the open field was a stark contrast to his counterpart’s physical downhill run style. He also proved to be very effective as a pass-catcher and might be the best route runner of this group.

In four years as a Tar Heel, Carter caught 82 passes for 656 yards and six touchdowns. Last season, he only dropped one pass and broke eight tackles. The one drawback of his slight frame is that he’s a bit of a liability in pass protection and he may not hold up as a team’s No.1 running back.

What other teams decide to do in the draft remains to be seen, but Carter could be available to the Carolina Panthers in the third round or later. The North Carolina product has been ranked as a top-five running back prospect by several outlets, but he could be a Day 3 steal for head coach Matt Rhule depending on how the draft plays out.

With the potential to be a Ray Rice type of player, Carter could instantly provide dynamic playmaking to compliment an already talented group of weapons in Carolina.