4 unheralded Carolina Panthers rookies who can surge up depth chart in 2024

Opportunity awaits these Carolina Panthers rookies.
Michael Barrett
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Chau Smith-Wade - Carolina Panthers CB

The Carolina Panthers still have some serious questions to answer at the cornerback position. There have been no notable developments on the Stephon Gilmore front despite general manager Dan Morgan claiming he'd remain in contact with the former NFL Defensive Payer of the Year once the draft concluded. Looking at the options available, it's not hard to see why there is a level of trepidation among the fanbase.

If Jaycee Horn suffers more bad luck on the injury front, it won't take long for this group to become a weak link. The South Carolina product is one of the league's premier shutdown outside coverage presences when healthy. But the best ability is availability - something that's been sorely lacking since he entered the NFL as the No. 8 overall selection in 2021.

Morgan is high on Dane Jackson, but the jury is still out regarding his ability to be a genuine starting option. Troy Hill is a nice rotational piece, but asking him to adopt a role bigger than that at this late stage of his career is unfair.

The Panthers waited until the fifth-round to draft a cornerback, which was surprising. That said, Chau Smith-Wade could be in line for a decent role if he shows enough during the offseason.

Smith-Wade is athletically gifted and proved his worth as a capable cornerback throughout his time at Washington State. There are some concerns about the player's lack of legitimate size, so the Panthers will give him a crash course in how to cope against more physically imposing wide receivers throughout the offseason.

Asking Smith-Wade to assume an outside role as a rookie is going to see him become targeted heavily and potentially exposed. But if the defensive back shows a level of composure and shines throughout offseason workouts, surging into a core slot piece alongside Hill in nickel and dime packages is a possibility.