7 NFL Draft picks the Carolina Panthers gave up on too soon

What might have been..
Harrison Butker
Harrison Butker / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
3 of 4

Jeremy Chinn - S/LB

Jeremy Chinn's presence on this list might seem odd considering he spent four seasons with the Carolina Panthers. That said, how things unfolded with the do-it-all defensive weapon left a sour taste in the mouth.

The Panthers traded up to land Chinn at No. 64 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. This looked like an absolute masterstroke after he took the league by storm as a rookie, thriving as an outside linebacker and becoming the first player in league history to score defensive touchdowns in consecutive plays.

This was followed by the Panthers moving Chinn back to the safety position where he starred in college at Southern Illinois. While his production remained decent, it wasn't the same. When Ejiro Evero came into the organization, his snap count diminished to 39 percent despite a plethora of injury problems across the unit throughout the 2023 campaign.

Chinn is getting a fresh start with the Washington Commanders and remains bitter. The Panthers mismanaged his positional value as his influence gradually dimmed. Had they realized what a special second-level presence he was, there's a good chance he'd have become a cornerstone piece.

Robert McClain - CB

Robert McClain might have been small in stature compared to most starting cornerbacks, but he more than made up for this with aggression and production throughout an outstanding college career at Connecticut. This saw the Carolina Panthers take a seventh-round flyer on the player during the 2010 NFL Draft.

McClain flashed as a rotational piece in Year 1 of his professional career, but it wasn't enough to earn a second season in Carolina. Following his release, he ended up with the Atlanta Falcons and began silencing his doubters.

After being cast aside by Carolina, McClain became a dependable coverage presence over his three seasons with the Falcons. His elusiveness also came in handy as a kick returner - albeit briefly.

The Panthers realized the error of their ways, bringing McClain back for the 2015 season. He was restricted to three games as Carolina came agonizingly close to winning the Super Bowl. Following 11 appearances in 2016, he was moved on.

McClain spent time with the San Diego Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers after his second Panthers departure. He's been out of the league since 2018, but that doesn't detract from those in power giving up on him way ahead of time.