Re-grading the Carolina Panthers 2022 NFL Draft class after Year No. 1

(Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images) Brandon Smith
(Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images) Brandon Smith /
4 of 6
Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Brandon Smith /

Brandon Smith – Carolina Panthers LB

  • No. 120 overall selection | Penn State Nittany Lions

Finding a long-term solution at middle linebacker remains a significant thorn in the Carolina Panthers’ side. While the franchise might never find another Luke Kuechly, quick fixes in free agency have failed miserably in the years following his shock retirement.

Brandon Smith‘s selection was an intriguing one at the time. Although rough around the edges, the physically gifted prospect came into the Panthers with all the physical intangibles needed to carve out a role for himself over time.

Thanks in no small part to Damien Wilson’s suspect production, Smith stepped into the limelight under Steve Wilks. Even though some mistakes emerged – which wasn’t unexpected – his instincts and athleticism made a real difference before injury cut his rookie campaign short.

Couple this with some encouraging contributions on special teams, and it’s not hard to see why some fans are still high on Smith’s long-term prospects. However, the Panthers must bring in reinforcements to solidify the second level this offseason.

Draft Grade: C+

Smith has demonstrated improvements throughout his rookie campaign, which is all Carolina probably hoped for as turbulence enveloped the organization. What’s important for the player is building on his late momentum before OTAs and camp roll around.