Grading every Carolina Panthers pick from the 2024 NFL Draft

Xavier Legette
Xavier Legette / Jacob Kupferman/GettyImages
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Carolina Panthers drafted Chau Smith-Wade

  • Cornerback | Washington State Cougars
  • Round No. 5 | No. 157 overall

One overlooked need for the Carolina Panthers heading into the 2024 NFL Draft was the cornerback position. This group was threadbare even before the departures of C.J. Henderson and Donte Jackson. Dane Jackson should help as a situational option, but it's not hard to see what complications could emerge if former first-round pick Jaycee Horn goes down with another injury complication.

Dan Morgan focused primarily on the offense with his big investments, which has been a trend throughout the offseason in pursuit of giving quarterback Bryce Young a helping hand after such a disappointing rookie campaign. They waited until Day 3 for a cornerback, with Chau Smith-Wade coming in as the No. 157 overall selection.

Smith-Wade comes with the coverage capabilities to potentially become an asset once Ejiro Evero and his staff get to grips with the rookie this offseason. The Washington State product mirrors wide receivers well downfield and tracks the football well to further raise a moderate sense of intrigue. He's also got the ball skills needed to bat passes away, although the defensive back failed to grab an interception in 2023 despite gaining two picks in the Senior Bowl.

There are positives. There are also some red flags. Smith-Wade should not be utilized on the outside under any circumstances until he adds more bulk to his frame. NFL teams will target him as a weak link - someone they can overwhelm physically en route to big gains. His athleticism isn't great, which also leads to unnecessary gambling in coverage.

Draft Grade: C

This is a good spot for Smith-Wade to develop. The Panthers have coaches renowned for helping defensive backs reach their goals. Evero, Jonathan Cooley, and DeAngelo Hall should be able to refine the player's credentials. But in terms of what impact he can make long-term, there's just no telling for sure.