Ranking top 12 wide receiver prospects: Who will the Carolina Panthers draft?

The Carolina Panthers would be wise to take advantage of an outstanding draft class.
Adonai Mitchell
Adonai Mitchell / Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman /
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We are now just days away from the 2024 NFL Draft and the Carolina Panthers sit in a peculiar spot on Day 2 of the selection process. It is an organization in need of surrounding its - no pun intended - young quarterback, second-year starter Bryce Young, with an infusion of skill talent.

Since the final seconds of the Panthers' regular season came to a close against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s been made evident all offseason that wide receiver is at the top of the pecking order in this list of positional needs, even with the acquisition of former Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowler Diontae Johnson.

Adam Thielen impressed this past season as a slot option, but he is not getting any younger. It is paramount that Carolina does not end up in the same situation they were in last year with their original group.

Throughout the offseason, many fans on social media have argued about what type of receiver the Panthers should draft. It doesn’t seem like the team is looking for a specific style or role. Dan Morgan and Dave Canales will be looking for players with alignment versatility, speed, and separation ability. That could be anyone in this class.

While it would be ideal to nab a potential future No. 1 wideout, the expectations should be tempered. Look for the team to draft a receiver - or two - that could come in and make an immediate contribution as the No. 2 or No. 3 on the roster to start their career. Without further ado, here are my top 12 wide receivers in the 2024 NFL Draft. But first, some honorable mentions.

Carolina Panthers wide receiver rankings ahead of 2024 NFL Draft

Honorable Mentions

Jalen McMillan

The Washington Huskies had one of the best wide receiver corps in terms of draft prospects since at least the 2019 LSU Tigers, who possessed the likes of Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, and Terrace Marshall Jr. Grading out as a top-75 prospect, Jalen McMillan could be argued as the second or third best perimeter weapon from their offense, depending on your taste of style at the position.

A former four-star high school recruit, McMillan missed four games in 2023 due to a knee injury. Even so, he showed to be a rock-solid route runner who has shown to win in the slot and perimeter. He offers good ball skills but will need to lower the number of drops. Plus, he has just average play strength and lacks elite explosiveness. 

However, McMillan is an overall strong catcher who can display some creation after the catch while offering quality body control on off-target throws. Whoever drafts him will get a solid contributor early on.

Javon Baker

It is hard not to like Javon Baker as a prospect and there is little to no wonder why plenty of Carolina Panthers fans are excited at the possibility of drafting him on the second or third day of the draft. A former teammate of Bryce Young’s, he transferred to UCF and became one of the best receivers in the Big 12 this past season, tallying over 1,100 receiving yards.

Baker is still green in some areas such as his footwork at the line of scrimmage and being more deliberate as a separator. However, his flashes are worth the draft selection. The prospect offers terrific body control and aggression at the catch point while also being one of the best overall ball trackers in this year’s draft.

Troy Franklin

This will rattle some fans of Troy Franklin. However, this is a reminder that this year’s wide receiver class is one of the deepest in the last decade or more. The Oregon standout, who bestows a late second-round grade on my big board, is still a quality option.

A first-team All-Pac 12 this past season, Franklin’s tape was slightly underwhelming. There are some concerns related to his catching technique. He doesn’t win as a contested catcher and isn’t as consistent as you want him to be as a route runner.

However, Franklin is a smooth and explosive player who possesses sound run-after-catch skills that will allow him to win on all three levels of the field. He'll be, at best, a quality No. 2 target who can win inside-out as a Z or slot receiver.