Grading Carolina Panthers last five first-round picks ahead of 2023 NFL Draft

Ikem Ekwonu
Ikem Ekwonu / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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Carolina Panthers
Brian Burns / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Burns - Carolina Panthers DE

  • No. 16 overall | 2019 NFL Draft

The Carolina Panthers struggled to generate any sort of consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks last season. This did not apply to Brian Burns, who once again proved why he's one of the league's most promising young edge defenders.

Despite extra attention coming his way, Burns thrived once again. His 12.5 sacks were a career-high and resulted in his second-straight Pro Bowl appearance, which was another step in the right direction as a new contract comes into the equation. 

Burns is ascending and the Panthers highlighted his importance to their long-term strategy by resisting a huge trade offer from the Los Angeles Rams before the deadline. This puts the former first-round pick out of Florida State in a strong position when it's time to begin negotiations. 

General manager Scott Fitterer stated that this will become a top priority once the 2023 NFL Draft concludes. The cost is going to be astronomical, but Burns is worth every cent and could thrive further under the expert guidance of new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero. 

Grade: A

Consistent pass-rushers don't grow on trees. That's exactly what Burns has become, with his leadership in the locker room another positive element to his development that cannot be overlooked. 

Something that's going to make him a very rich man indeed before the new campaign arrives.