3 local prospects the Panthers could target in the 2023 NFL Draft

(Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports) Camerun Peoples
(Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports) Camerun Peoples /
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Which 2023 NFL Draft prospects from local programs could the Carolina Panthers target during the all-important evaluation process?

In 2021, the Carolina Panthers drafted cornerback Jaycee Horn from South Carolina. And last year, they got a gift from the football gods when Ikem Ekwonu fell out of North Carolina State and into their laps at No. 6 overall.

Despite coming off a season-ending injury as a rookie, Horn has emerged as one of the best young corners in the game. Meanwhile, Ekwonu has solidified the left tackle position – an area of constant underachievement since Jordan Gross retired.

Horn and Ekwonu look to be cornerstone players for the Panthers. Fans love to cheer for them, in part due to their play on the field, but also because of their connections to the Carolinas.

The 2023 NFL Draft class intends to feature several talented players from both North and South Carolina universities. Here are three such prospects the Panthers should target.

Prospect No. 1

Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Josh Downs /

Carolina Panthers could target Josh Downs

  • Wide Receiver | North Carolina Tarheels

A four-star recruit out of high school, Josh Downs went on to have a productive career at North Carolina. The wide receiver caught more than 90 passes during his junior and sophomore seasons and averaged over 10 yards per reception throughout his college career.

At 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, Downs is not the biggest wide receiver. Instead, he wins with crisp route-running, is shifty in and out of his breaks, and uses elite agility to create consistent separation between himself and his would-be defenders.

Once the ball is in his hands, Downs makes the defense sweat. He is a terror after the catch.

Downs would give the Carolina Panthers a true threat in the slot. Quarterbacks love wideouts who make things easier. Something the prospect accomplished throughout his stint with the Tarheels.

As the Panthers move to potentially add a young quarterback to their roster, it would make sense to surround them with a player such as Downs, who can get open with ease. He is currently projected as a top-50 prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft and could be someone to target on Day 2.