Winner No. 3
D.J. Johnson - Carolina Panthers OLB
There were more than a few raised eyebrows when the Carolina Panthers traded up to acquire D.J. Johnson at No. 80 overall in the 2023 Draft. While his impressive physical attributes were worth gambling on, most fans and analysts felt this was a significant reach for someone with a consensus Day 3 grade.
Johnson is a rough diamond after transitioning to the edge rushing position at Oregon. However, the Panthers' acquisition of Justin Houston should give the rookie a little extra breathing space to develop at his own pace during a crucial first season in a professional environment.
In fairness to Johnson, he's ignored all the criticism and focused on improving from the moment he joined the Panthers. This is starting to bear fruit in terms of on-field production if the player's performance at the New York Giants was any indication.
The statistics didn't exactly jump off the screen, but Johnson's contribution was impressive upon further examination. He set the edge well against the run and caused enough disruption in obvious pass-rushing situations to leave reasons for encouragement.
This bodes well for Johnson in both the short and long term. There's a good chance he sees time on the defensive rotation given Houston's age and he might have even surpassed the likes of Yetur Gross-Matos on the depth chart already.