Momentum gaining speed around potential Carolina Panthers draft target

Could this be the guy?
Ladd McConkey
Ladd McConkey / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages

Dan Morgan and Dave Canales are currently in the process of finalizing their plans for the 2024 NFL Draft. The Carolina Panthers will be innocent bystanders on Day 1 without a first-round pick, but that doesn't mean the franchise cannot come away from the high-profile selection event with some valuable contributors and improved depth.

One of the biggest priorities is finding playmakers for quarterback Bryce Young on offense. The offensive line looks far more assured after the signings of Robert Hunt and Damien Lewis. Securing wide receiver Diontae Johnson via trade from the Pittsburgh Steelers provides Canales with another exceptional route-runner to go alongside Adam Thielen.

Despite these additions, many expect the Panthers to take advantage of a superb wide receiver class with one of their second-round selections. One name, in particular, seems to be generating a significant amount of momentum at the right time.

Carolina Panthers remain strongly linked with Ladd McConkey

After Dane Brugler from The Athletic mocked Ladd McConkey to the Panthers at No. 33 overall, his colleague and long-time beat writer Joe Person lent further weight to the choice. The reporter added that if the Georgia standout was still around when Carolina went on the clock at the start of Day 2 and they didn't move back, he gets the sense this might be the direction those in power take.

"If the [Carolina] Panthers stay at 33 and don’t trade the first pick of Day 2, my sense is [Ladd] McConkey could be in play. But as mentioned in this space before, trading back — and still picking just six selections later at 39 — will present Dan Morgan a gift-wrapped opportunity to improve his team now and in the future (with the potential of picking up a Day-2 pick next year as part of a trade-back scenario). Heck, McConkey could still be available at 39 if receiver-needy teams are leery of his diminutive size and injury history.

"If not, the Panthers can choose from other wideouts expected to be on the board in the second round (Xavier Legette, Xavier Worthy, Keon Coleman, Troy Franklin) or later (Malachi Corley, Devontez Walker, Jalen McMillan)."

McConkey might not be the most physically imposing wide receiver. That said, he's got plenty of outstanding traits that are easily transferable to the pros.

His route-running is nothing short of exceptional. There is explosiveness out of his cuts and the prospect is adept at manipulating opposing defenders at the top of his routes. This is the sort of dynamic presence the Panthers sorely lacked during Young's rocky rookie campaign.

There's also a lot to like about McConkey's top-end speed and how it can impact all three levels of the field. He's also got eye-catching ball skills, making difficult catches look routine more often than not. Carolina needs to work on the player's balance to make him a bigger threat after the catch, but his skill set should be a massive hit right away within Canales' expansive scheme.

This would be a tremendous addition to the Panthers, but it's not a lock by any stretch of the imagination. Judging by McConkey's soaring stock, there's a good chance he'll be taken late in the first round by a team needing wide receiver help. There's also the prospect of Carolina getting a good trade offer for pick No. 33 depending on how things unfold in front of them.

A lot of variables are in play and Morgan is keeping his options open. If the pick ends up being McConkey, pairing him with Thielen, Johnson, and Jonathan Mingo should make Young very happy indeed.