4 winners and 3 losers from the Carolina Panthers 2021 NFL Draft

Dean Jones
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Donte Jackson
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Donte Jackson /
3 of 4
Carolina Panthers
(Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

Winner No. 3

Sam Darnold – Carolina Panthers QB

Despite the speculation linking the Carolina Panthers with quarterback Justin Field at No. 8 overall, they decided to hold firm and give Sam Darnold a real opportunity with no unnecessary pressure after his trade from the New York Jets. This was a supreme vote of confidence in the signal-caller making a better go of things with more around him and considering the talent acquired via the draft, there will be no more excuses for the USC product.

Darnold has additional weapons in Terrace Marshall Jr., Shi Smith, and Chuba Hubbard. He also has a complete tight end prospect in Tommy Tremble and two potential improvements on the offensive line in Brady Christensen and Deonte Brown, so everything is now in place for the player to succeed.

How successful the Panthers are going to be in 2021 will go through Darnold. If he can reignite his career then it might come with a playoff spot when it’s all said and done.

Loser No. 2

Rodney Smith – Carolina Panthers RB

There was a lot to like about the way Rodney Smith applied himself when he came into the starting rotation last season. The undrafted running back out of Minnesota looked assured and confident with the carries that came his way after failing to make the 53-man roster during training camp, with the prospect of further progression not entirely out of the question.

With Mike Davis leaving for the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, Smith was expected to be a prime candidate to take over No. 2 on the depth chart behind All-Pro Christian McCaffrey. However, the Panthers chose to draft Chuba Hubbard in the fourth round for additional competition and it doesn’t appear as if Carolina took the Oklahoma State product in the mid-rounds for him to sit on the sidelines.

Smith could still have a part to play. But his chances of being the primary backup option took a substantial blow when Hubbard was selected.