Grading every pick from an impressive Panthers 2022 NFL Draft class

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) Ikem Ekwonu
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) Ikem Ekwonu /
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Carolina Panthers
(Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) Brandon Smith /

120. player. 806. . LB. Nittany Lions . BRANDON SMITH

Brandon Smith – Carolina Panthers LB

The Carolina Panthers wasted no time to make another bold move up the order on Day 3 by trading to No. 120 overall for Brandon Smith. A physically imposing linebacker with all the athletic intangibles needed to carve out a productive career for himself over time.

Smith’s power is what sets him apart from most middle linebackers in this class. He stuffs the run well and is also a surprising contributor in coverage despite being a little raw across the board.

Carolina needed additional depth at the second level with Damien Wilson’s status up in the air. Smith will provide this and will become a core special teams contributor while other areas of his game get up to speed.

If Smith can work on positioning and finishing off tackles with more conviction, then the player will eventually fill starting duties. Just how long that’s going to take is unclear, but the Panthers have two veterans capable of holding down the fort until the Penn State product is ready.

Draft Grade: B+

Smith should be treated as a development prospect. However, it wouldn’t be the biggest shock in the world if he made quick strides under the guidance of Carolina’s coaching staff and defensive coordinator Phil Snow, in particular.