4 Carolina Panthers rookies who can help themselves most at 2023 minicamp
By Dean Jones
D.J. Johnson - Carolina Panthers DE/OLB
There were more than a few eyebrows raised when the Carolina Panthers traded up in the third round to select D.J. Johnson at No 80 overall. Although their need for an edge rusher to put opposite Brian Buns was evident, many fans felt like this was a major reach for the six-year college player who's still learning the position.
General manager Scott Fitterer recently stated that Johnson was one of the last few remaining edge rushers on their board. One they felt was a chance worth taking and also got the seal of approval from defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero.
Johnson needs to make a lasting impression immediately to alleviate concerns from the fanbase if nothing else. There is a lot to like about the athleticism he brings to the table, with six sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss in 11 games at Oregon last season indicating there could be a productive performer in there if he takes on coaching.
Drafting players with high athletic traits has been the core component of Fitterer's ethos since becoming general manager. Johnson fits this mold perfectly, but there is plenty of hard work ahead in terms of improving gap discipline against the run, hand placement and creating space in tight windows.
Evero clearly feels like he can mold Johnson into a valuable contributor. The jury is out for many, but the player can begin silencing his doubters this weekend at Carolina's rookie minicamp.