Xavier Legette's lofty comparison should thrill Carolina Panthers fans

This is a lofty bar to aim for.
Xavier Legette
Xavier Legette / Gainesville Sun-USA TODAY NETWORK

It didn't take a genius to figure out that Xavier Legette was high on the Carolina Panthers' list of options early in the 2024 NFL Draft. Those in power met with the wide receiver several times during the evaluation process. He also revealed that if available when the NFC South outfit went on the clock, that's where he'd be going.

The Panthers weren't going to leave anything to chance, trading up one spot to secure Legette's services at No. 32 overall. This seemed strange, but it provided Carolina with a fifth-year option and also kept the athletically gifted pass-catcher from other interested parties.

Hopes are high that Legette can become an offensive focal point. Dave Canales will have a plan in place on how best to utilize him immediately. With a little refinement from a route-running perspective, this could become a dangerous long-term weapon in the passing game for quarterback Bryce Young to call upon.

Carolina Panthers could have an explosive playmaker in Xavier Legette

Jeremy Fowler from ESPN - upon talking with an unnamed NFL personnel evaluator - whet the appetite further around Legette.

"The Panthers are going with nearby South Carolina flavor this offseason, pairing Gamecocks first-round receiver Xavier Legette with free agent signing Jadeveon Clowney, another former South Carolina great. Head coach David Canales was a longtime assistant in Seattle, where he coached DK Metcalf. And some scouts see similarities in the 6-foot-3, 227-pound Legette. "Not quite the athlete Metcalf is but he's got some game-breaking ability like that, and he can do a little more with versatility as a runner and pass-catcher," an NFL personnel evaluator said."

If Legette can go on to achieve D.K. Metcalf's level of productivity over time, this will be a home-run hit for the Panthers in no uncertain terms. Placing this sort of expectations on his shoulders is unfair - at least initially as he transitions from college to the pros - but it's a sign of how the former South Carolina star's physical attributes were perceived around the league during the pre-draft evaluation process.

As previously mentioned, Legette's route-running needs work. That said, he's explosive, has enough top-end speed to become a vertical threat, and is a menace in contested catch situations. The wideout also thrives with the football in his hands, providing added yards after the catch potential that Canales can scheme to good use.

Nobody is expecting Legette to reach anything close to Metcalf's Pro Bowl-caliber performance levels as a rookie. At the same time, his breakout campaign with the Gamecocks in 2023 coupled with Canales' exceptional offensive coaching prowess could see the player flourish over time.

Player comparisons are nice, but they don't mean much in the grand scheme of things. Legette has to prove himself all over again against a higher standard of competition. The SEC is regarded as the college football pinnacle, but it's nowhere close to what he'll experience in the pros. Simply put, complacency is not an issue.

There's a growing sense of excitement around Legette and the Panthers' offense overall. Those in power invested heavily around Young in the hope of more explosiveness and consistency. If it doesn't come off, serious questions will be asked of everyone involved.

For now, there is plenty of optimism. Hopefully, this can lead to a better football product for fans to get behind.