Carolina Panthers linked with explosive boom-or-bust wide receiver

This would help Bryce Young tremendously...
Xavier Worthy
Xavier Worthy / Sara Diggins/American-Statesman-USA

The Carolina Panthers were linked with Texas' phenomenally explosive wide receiver Xavier Worthy at No. 33 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft.

It's widely perceived that the Carolina Panthers will be selecting a wide receiver relatively early during the 2024 NFL Draft. Surrounding quarterback Bryce Young with better options across the board became a pressing priority once Dan Morgan and Dave Canales took charge. There is a long way to go, but the early signs are encouraging nonetheless.

The Panthers might not have a first-round pick to call upon, but they've got the next best thing. After one of the worst seasons in franchise history, Morgan at least has the No. 33 overall selection to show for it. This is also an exceptionally deep class for wide receivers, so a few intriguing options should be there for the taking if the new front-office leader sees fit.

Morgan wants to adopt an approach where he takes the best prospect available regardless of positional need. That sounds nice, in theory, but the Panthers are desperately short of dependable pass-catching options despite trading for Diontae Johnson. This could tip the scales depending on what options are available at the end of Day 1.

Carolina Panthers linked with Xavier Worthy in The Athletic's mock draft

Bruce Feldman from The Athletic linked the Panthers with one of the most explosive playmakers in this year's class at No. 33 overall. Carolina went with Xavier Worthy in his scenario, who's got blazing speed but comes with a boom-or-bust element attached.

"The Panthers go for the fastest man in the draft. Worthy won that title with his 4.21 40 at the combine. He will provide a much-needed weapon for last year’s top pick, Bryce Young. Worthy is only 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, but he has rare speed. He ran a 1.49 10-yard split, vertical jumped 41 inches and broad jumped 10-11. His hands were pretty shaky earlier in his career, but they became more reliable in 2023 when he caught 75 passes for 1,014 yards and five TDs. Given his size, don’t expect him to be much of a factor at crunch time. He produced three first downs on third-down throws and only produced one red zone touchdown in 2023. For all the flash of his blazing speed, Worthy has blue-collar work ethic. Texas coaches told The Athletic that he was the best practice player they’ve had. He really couldn’t track the ball well as a sophomore, but worked very hard to improve as he’s continued to become a more complete player."

Bruce Feldman, The Athletic

Worthy is a home-run hitter with the elite-level speed to blow by any defensive back in his path. He's an instinctive playmaker who made things happen from the moment he stepped onto the field as a freshman. His route tree is improving and the Texas prospect boasts the position versatility to be deployed anywhere across the line of scrimmage with equal success.

Another area of Worthy's game that's come on greatly is his ability to manipulate opposing corners. It doesn't take long for them to become wary of his unique explosiveness, something he uses to full effect by improving his cuts and capability to stop on a dime in pursuit of creating separation.

Some concerns could hinder Worthy's chances of becoming a legitimate NFL star. His slight build makes him an easy target to jam off the block in press coverage. This increases the risk of cornerbacks getting blown away in the blink of an eye, but adopting a more physical approach to get the prospect of his desired route path became a common feature with some profitability at the collegiate level.

Whether this will restrict Worthy in terms of being a legitimate outside threat is debatable. He'll need to find the right fit, but head coach Dave Canales is a shrewd offensive mind who'll know exactly how to put his exceptional skill set to good use.

If Worthy makes it out of Round No. 1 - which does appear unlikely considering his flawless testing and proven college production - the Panthers might not take too long to turn in their card on Day 2. But unless Morgan makes a daring trade-up into the first round, it's a waiting game.