5 Panthers who boosted their stock during Patriots joint practices

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Frankie Luvu
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Frankie Luvu /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Brandon Smith /

Brandon Smith – Carolina Panthers LB

Considering that Brandon Smith was expected to be a development project that could help out on special teams while bringing on other areas of his game, the Carolina Panthers are getting much more than they bargained for from the fourth-round selection.

Smith has all the physical tools needed to become a dominant NFL player. There were times when he looked a little raw at Penn State, but the linebacker is picking things up quickly under the watchful eye of Carolina’s experienced coaching staff.

His production throughout joint practices with the New England Patriots was another huge positive. Smith was instinctive and explosive, getting to the point of attack quickly in pursuit of making things happen.

Whether this is enough for Smith to contend for a starting role right out of the gate is another matter. Carolina’s second-level is crying out for some consistent production on the interior, but with high stakes for head coach Matt Rhule in 2022, he might go with the experience of Damien Wilson or Cory Littleton initially.

That’s not a slight on Smith by any stretch. But if he continues in this fashion, the Panthers might have no choice other than to throw him in at the deep end sooner than anticipated.