4 players that didn’t live up to the hype during Carolina Panthers tenure

Which former Carolina Panthers players failed to meet expectations?
Sam Darnold
Sam Darnold / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages
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Sam Darnold - Former Carolina Panthers QB

One of the biggest elements that became constant under the previous regime was being too cute for their own good. They always felt like fixing reclamation projects rather than building around a rookie quarterback - something that represents a more traditional and cost-effective way of roster construction that was never entertained by Matt Rhule.

Thankfully, it isn't a sentiment echoed by general manager Scott Fitterer, who spent significant capital for the privilege of picking Bryce Young at No. 1 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. This provides the Panthers with a long-term presence under center that looks like a worthy heir to Cam Newton at last.

Perhaps the biggest mistake of all during Rhule's tenure was trading for Sam Darnold. The former USC star was seen as a product of his environment on the New York Jets and the Carolina Panthers set out their stall to finally unlock his true potential.

How wrong they were.

Darnold fluffed his lines constantly, unable to rid himself of poor decision-making and suspect footwork during a disastrous first season under center. He was benched for Baker Mayfield in 2022 but returned under Steve Wilks and did improve within a more insulated, run-first system.

The No. 3 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft wasn't brought back in free agency, signing for the San Francisco 49ers. Darnold is expected to back up either Trey Lance or Brock Purdy next season.