4 young Carolina Panthers who could surprise in 2022 training camp

(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) Amare Barno
(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) Amare Barno /
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Carolina Panthers
(Dan Rainville/York Daily Record via IMAGN Content Services) Brandon Smith /

Brandon Smith – Carolina Panthers LB

When Brandon Smith fell into the fourth round, the Carolina Panthers felt it was a risk worth taking and struck with conviction. The gifted linebacker became the No. 120 overall selection, which could be a steal if the player finally puts his exceptional athletic traits to better use.

Smith has the size, explosiveness, and physicality to become a dominant force. His production at Penn State was inconsistent on occasions, so the Panthers will likely take their time with the first-year-pro rather than expect a meaningful contribution in 2022.

The Panthers have endured some rough production at the middle linebacker spot since Luke Kuechly hung up his cleats. Damien Wilson and Cory Littleton could provide an upgrade if they are used effectively as a tandem, with Smith taking on the role of development project until further notice.

With that being said, if Smith puts things together quicker than anticipated, then the physical specimen could emerge as one of the team’s training camp stars when it’s all said and done.

Smith is a ferocious hitter with the ability to generate pressure when required. There are some deficiencies in coverage and gap discipline, so it’ll be interesting to see how the rookie improves these flaws in Spartanburg and during the season.

Until then, expect the Panthers to put Smith’s dynamic capabilities to good use on special teams. An area where he should excel immediately.