Carolina Panthers draft grade should bring fans back down to earth

Mel Kiper Jr. gave the Carolina Panthers a modest draft grade.
Dan Morgan
Dan Morgan / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers had to make the best out of a bad situation during the 2024 NFL Draft. They coughed up the No. 1 overall selection to the Chicago Bears as part of their trade for Bryce Young. Not ideal, but it's not as if this came as a huge shock to general manager Dan Morgan and his staff throughout their preparations.

There was once again a heavy onus on surrounding Young with more talent. The quarterback walked into the worst possible situation as a rookie and suffered accordingly. Those in power couldn't let the same trend continue - something that would knock the signal-caller's confidence past the point of no return.

Carolina spent three of its first four picks on offensive playmakers. They added some intriguing depth pieces on defense, but Morgan is banking on defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero to mold his unit into a productive one despite losing a plethora of experienced and accomplished performers this offseason.

Carolina Panthers get B- draft grade from ESPN analyst

Mel Kiper Jr. - the long-standing and respected draft analyst at ESPN - gave the Panthers a B- grade for their draft efforts. He liked the acquisitions of offense and the trade to get a second-rounder in 2025. That was about it, in all honesty.

"Carolina needed an injection of youth and talent in its wide receiver room, and [Xavier] Legette will give the offense some juice after the catch. [Jonathon] Brooks is my top-ranked running back, a powerful and quick runner who is coming off a torn ACL.

"Ja'Tavion Sanders (101) is a toolsy tight end in a 6-4 frame. I thought he was a little faster when I watched tape -- he ran a 4.69-second 40-yard dash at the combine -- but he caught 99 passes in his Texas career. I see him getting early snaps for an offense that has to get better outlets for Young.

"One under-the-radar asset Carolina added in its trades on Friday was a 2025 second-rounder from the Rams. I'm a fan of these types of deals for teams that aren't close to contending. It's difficult to go much higher for Carolina with this grade, but if the organization's priority was to help Young in 2024, it did a decent job."

This seems fair. The Panthers are going all-in to ensure Young can have a better chance of showing the world why he was the top prospect off the board last year. There was no alternative considering the substantial investment made in the player. If that means the defense has to suffer for a year or two, so be it.

Morgan has always preached patience. This is a long-term plan to get the Panthers off their knees and back among the contenders. It's not going to happen overnight, so fans can expect another rollercoaster campaign full of twists and turns under head coach Dave Canales in 2024.

If the Panthers can win a few more games, be competitive in all phases, demonstrate gradual growth, and Young excels with a more productive supporting cast, that's a successful season at this juncture. Whether it amounts to anything more is debatable, but the NFC South doesn't look especially strong, so it cannot be dismissed entirely.

The Panthers reaffirmed their uncompromising faith in Young throughout the offseason. It's a gamble, but one that could reap substantial rewards if the signal-caller becomes the player many anticipated following his Heisman Trophy-winning college career at Alabama.