Diontae Johnson trade makes Carolina Panthers draft intentions clear

The Panthers need more at wide receiver...

Diontae Johnson
Diontae Johnson / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Trading for Diontae Johnson indicates the Carolina Panthers will be looking for a specific type of wide receiver during the 2024 NFL Draft.

Bolstering the wide receiver room is something the Carolina Panthers managed to accomplish with an eye-catching trade for Diontae Johnson. He's an elite separator with some outstanding production under his belt, but those in power cannot rest on their laurels and think the work is done.

The Panthers had one reliable pass-catcher last season, which was aging veteran Adam Thielen. He might not be around in 2024 based on his comments before leaving the team facility after Carolina's inept 2023 season concluded. Even if the wideout does decide to stick around, more is needed.

Johnson will help. This move also suggests the Panthers could be focusing on a specific kind of wide receiver during the 2024 NFL Draft.

Carolina Panthers need a big-bodied receiver during the draft

Armed with an additional second-round selection after trading Brian Burns to the New York Giants, general manager Dan Morgan could use this - or the No. 33 pick - on a prominent receiver to pair with quarterback Bryce Young long-term. This is a deep draft class with some exceptional prospects set to be taken within the first two days. The Panthers would be wise to take advantage of that fact.

Looking at the skill set Johnson, Jonathan Mingo, and Thielen bring to the table, the Panthers need a big-bodied wideout to provide a physical presence. It was thought Terrace Marshall Jr. could eventually evolve into this, but he appears to be a lost cause at this juncture.

Besides, the Panthers could have an embarrassment of riches when they go on the clock. Keon Coleman from Florida State is projected by many to fall out of the first round after an indifferent 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine. If he makes it to No. 33, he represents a difficult proposition to turn down.

Perhaps a more realistic prospect is Xavier Legette out of South Carolina. The Panthers sent a huge contingent to the Gamecocks' pro day this week, and let's just say they weren't there to get a close look at Spencer Rattler.

Legette is big, fast, and a physical specimen. After a non-existent first four years in college, he broke out in the best possible way last time around. He was a matchup nightmare at all three levels of the field en route to 71 catches for 1,255 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. This came with a whopping yards per reception average of 17.7.

If this is the start of better things to come from Legette, it's a chance worth taking. What the Panthers must determine is whether this incredible surge in production was a flash in the pan or not.

Others will be considered, but this seems like the intended route after picking up Johnson. Dave Canales needs a stronger outside presence to put his master plan into action. The Seattle Seahawks have D.K. Metcalf. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have Mike Evans. The Panthers need to follow suit.

Of course, adding one in free agency might be something to contemplate. Mike Williams just became available, but the cheapest option is through the draft. And this one is loaded with exactly what the Panthers are looking for.

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