Realistic career expectations for every Panthers 2022 draft pick

(Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports) Ikem Ekwonu
(Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports) Ikem Ekwonu /
5 of 7
Carolina Panthers
(Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports) Brandon Smith /

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

Brandon Smith – Carolina Panthers LB

The talk of the draft is deservingly Ikem Ekwonu and Matt Corral as far as the Carolina Panthers are concerned. However, their third selection might end up being the most underrated one.

The Panthers traded up to select linebacker Brandon Smith in the third round and it’s a pick that has a lot of upsides. At 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, the Penn State product has plenty of speed and athleticism, making him seem like your typical NFL second-level defender.

As a two-year starter with the Nittany Lions, the only downfall for Smith was inconsistency. Something that Carolina’s coaching staff will look to improve this offseason and beyond.

The Panthers are pretty set at the linebacker position right now. But Smith will provide immediate depth and the potential to work his way up to a future starter when the opportunity presents itself.

It seems likely that Smith gets playing time this year but it will probably come in spurts as he develops his game more. If everything works out, he could be donning a Carolina uniform for quite a while and might even become the team’s long-term successor they’ve been searching for since Luke Kuechly announced his shock retirement after the 2019 campaign.

Realistic career expectation: Starting linebacker within the next three years.