Realistic expectations for every Carolina Panthers draft pick in 2023

Jonathan Mingo
Jonathan Mingo / Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports
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Carolina Panthers
D.J. Johnson / Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA

D.J. Johnson - Carolina Panthers DE/OLB

Many fans expected the Carolina Panthers to take more talented pass rushers available on the board when Scott Fitterer made the move to trade up as the run on the position began in the third round.

Despite the better talent on the board in the eyes of fans and media alike, Carolina chose one of their favorite players and one of the last pass rushers they had left on their board, one they felt would not be around at 93. That player was Oregon's D.J. Johnson.

Johnson is a pass rusher some viewed as a late Day 3 selection. However, Fitterer said late Friday night that he believes his best football is ahead of him. Head coach Frank Reich also said that Johnson was one of the four types of pass rushers they were hoping to acquire this weekend.

" We're looking for four guys. So you got one through four. You can have different types of guys. Obviously, (Brian) Burns is number one. He's the speed guy. We really see DJ (Johnson) as kind of a power guy. Then as Scott (Fitterer) said, continue to develop him into a more complete player."

Frank Reich via

The former four-star high school recruit certainly has plenty of growing to do as a player and is also an older prospect at 24 years old, potentially limiting his overall ceiling. However, Johnson is a powerful and athletic pass rusher who the Panthers are hoping can develop into a capable edge-setting outside rush linebacker.

Expectations in Year 1 should be for him to be involved in the rotation, though he may spend some time in street clothes on some weeks. By Year 3, he could be a valuable asset to the Panthers' run defense opposite Brian Burns. I don't expect All-Pros in his future, though I hope to be wrong in this case.