Carolina Panthers NFL Draft picks 2024: Grades, fits and scouting reports

Carolina Panthers NFL Draft picks 2024: Grades, fits and scouting reports

The Carolina Panthers entered the 2024 NFL Draft on April 25 with seven picks over the three-day draft. They’ve made six of those picks and have one remaining in the seventh round.

The Panthers got things started Saturday on the final day of the draft by taking Texas tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders at No. 101. They added CB Chau Smith-Wade (Washington State) with their fifth-round pick and Mississippi State DT Jaden Crumedy in the sixth round.

On Friday night, the Panthers were active. First, they traded out of the 39th slot to 52 with the Rams. They also picked up the 155th pick in the fifth round and LA’s second-round pick in 2025. But before that pick arrived, the Panthers moved up to No. 46 in a trade with the Colts as Carolina gave up picks 52, 142 and 155. The Panthers then took RB Jonathon Brooks out of Texas.

They later selected Kentucky linebacker Trevin Wallace with the 72nd overall pick in the third round.

They made a move late Thursday night, trading into the first round for the No. 32 pick and took South Carolina receiver Xavier Legette. In trading with the Bills, the Panthers received Buffalo’s sixth-round pick at No. 200 and gave up a fifth-rounder (No. 141).

To kick off Night 2 of the draft, the Panthers made a trade with the Rams. Instead of picking 39th, Carolina moved back to 52 and also acquired the 155th overall pick in the fifth round and a second-round pick in 2025.

Keep coming back here throughout the draft for analysis and grades for each Panthers pick.

NFL Draft 2024 tracker: Live blog, picks and analysis
Big board best available: Who’s left from Dane Brugler’s Top 300?
Draft pick grades: Round 1 | Rounds 2-3
Full draft order: Team picks for all 257 selections

Round 1

No. 32: Xavier Legette, WR, South Carolina

How he fits

The Panthers’ interest in Legette was apparent at the Senior Bowl and apparently never wavered. Dave Canales said he “loved” Legette throughout the process. Though they only moved up one spot, trading up with Buffalo to take Legette with the 32nd pick was significant because the Panthers will have a fifth-year option on Legette by virtue of taking him in the first round. Clearly, Legette is someone the Panthers have plans for in the short and long term. — Joe Person

Dane Brugler’s analysis

A four-year starter at South Carolina, Legette was an inside/outside receiver in offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains’ scheme (64.6 percent wide, 34.0 percent slot in 2023). A quarterback out of necessity as a senior in high school, he was raw when he joined the Gamecocks and didn’t break out until his fifth season (he and Malik Nabers were the only two SEC players to average more than 100 yards receiving per game in 2023).

Legette is at his best on runway routes (verticals, posts, crossers) or sweeps and end-arounds that get his long-striding acceleration going. He doesn’t consistently shake tight man coverage, but he will use his size to play strong through contact.

Overall, Legette needs to continue developing his route proficiency and tempo, but his film gives off DK Metcalf vibes, and he has the explosive speed and physicality to be a matchup weapon. He should be an immediate contributor on special teams before competing for starting reps outside.

Joe Person’s analysis

Dave Canales sees Xavier Legette doing grown-man things for Panthers: ‘He’s done it all’

Carolina Panthers draft Xavier Legette: How he fits, pick grade and scouting intel

Nick Baumgardner’s grade: C+

Round 1 grades for all 32 picks

Round 2

No. 46 (from Colts): Jonathon Brooks, RB, Texas

How he fits

After getting hired in February, first-time coach Dave Canales continued to talk about how he wanted to establish the running game in Carolina, much like he did during his lone season as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator. The Panthers gave Bryce Young a passing-game weapon in the first round with South Carolina wideout Xavier Legette. After a couple of trades Friday (one back, one up), Young now has a new running back to hand the ball to. — Joe Person

Dane Brugler’s analysis

A one-year starter at Texas, Brooks emerged as the Longhorns’ go-to back in head coach Steve Sarkisian’s spread RPO offense, which utilizes both zone and gap principles. After two years behind Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson, he put together an All-America-level season in 2023 prior to suffering a torn ACL (ranked top five in the FBS in rushing at the time of his injury).

Despite a wide gait and long legs, Brooks is a controlled, instinctive runner who forces missed tackles with his subtle ability to set up defenders and string together moves with timely, sharp cuts. He can be inconsistent in short-yardage situations but offers third-down value with his promise as a blocker and natural pass-catching traits.

Overall, Brooks is a springy, balanced athlete with a feel for lane development and the elusive traits to create his own yardage, both at the line of scrimmage and on the second level. Stylistically, he reminds me of Kenyan Drake, although Brooks has much better vision and big-play potential (assuming he returns to his pre-injury form).

Joe Person’s analysis

Carolina Panthers draft Jonathon Brooks: How he fits, pick grade and scouting intel

Nick Baumgardner’s grade: B-

Grades for all Round 2 and 3 picks

Round 3

No. 72: Trevin Wallace, LB, Kentucky

How he fits

He also should help establish a physical, aggressive tone on a defense that lost some of its swagger with the offseason departures of Brian BurnsFrankie Luvu and Donte Jackson. … Wallace would seem to be the eventual successor to Shaq Thompson. But listening him on a Zoom call Friday night, he sounded like he could be a capable replacement for the revved-up and versatile Luvu. — Joe Person

Dane Brugler’s analysis

A two-year starter at Kentucky, Wallace played Will linebacker in defensive coordinator Brad White’s 4-2-5 base scheme. The top-ranked recruit in the Wildcats’ 2021 class, he made steady strides each of the last three seasons and ranked top 10 in the SEC with 6.7 tackles per game in 2023.

A balanced athlete in space, Wallace has the speed to pursue plays all over the field and is one of the best linebackers in this class at mirroring backs to the sideline when plays flow wide. Though not super instinctive versus the run or pass, he follows basic keys to the spot and has the athletic range to stay on the field on third down.

Overall, Wallace has an attractive collection of traits for today’s NFL, however, the parts are better than the whole at this point and pro coaching will need to get him across the finish line. With more seasoning, he has the talent to compete for starting reps.

Joe Person’s analysis

Panthers get a RB, LB and at least one dawg on trade-filled second night

Nick Baumgardner’s grade: C+

Grades for all Round 2 and 3 picks

Round 4

No. 101: Ja’Tavion Sanders, TE, Texas

How he fits

The Panthers have a couple of nice blocking TEs. Now they have a guy in Ja’Tavion Sanders who can be a big-time, receiving TE. And he’s the third weapon for Bryce Young in the first four picks. … Thought all along 101 would be the sweet spot for the Panthers for a TE. Now I’d try to take care of Ejiro Evero with a CB and an edge. — Joe Person

Dane Brugler’s analysis

A two-year starter at Texas, Sanders was a multi-dimensional tight end in Sarkisian’s spread, RPO offense (62.1 percent of his career snaps came inline). He needed only two seasons to become the Longhorns all-time leader among tight ends in catches (99), and his 68.9 percent first-down/touchdown rate in 2023 is the best among the tight ends in this draft class. A true three-level receiving threat, Sanders has the athletic talent of a wide receiver and boxes out downfield to command the catch point (No. 2 among FBS tight ends with 12 catches of 20-plus yards in 2023, one behind Brock Bowers). Though he is a functional on-the-move blocker because of his range and pop, he needs to put more of a premium on leverage and positioning for him to survive as an NFL blocker.

Overall, Sanders needs to become “more available” in his routes and improve his reliability as a blocker, but he is a smooth operator with dynamic talent before, during and after the catch. He projects as an F tight end (similar to Gerald Everett) with starting upside in the NFL.

Round 5

No. 157: Chau Smith-Wade, CB, Washington State

How he fits

Chau Smith-Wade (5-9 1/2, 184) had no INTs during the season last year, then two in the Senior Bowl. He can play outside and in the slot, as well as special teams. Also of note: This won’t preclude the Panthers from signing Stephon Gilmore. — Joe Person

Dane Brugler’s analysis

A two-year starter at Washington State, Smith-Wade was the right cornerback in defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding’s multiple scheme. He put himself on the NFL map with his breakout 2022 season, and although his 2023 campaign was cut short by injury, he received positive reviews from NFL area scouts.

Smith-Wade is a quick-footed, fluid athlete with the movement skills desired for the slot or outside. He doesn’t play structurally sound in his process, which causes him to lose phase mid-route, and needs to be more consistent reading coverage clues to become more of a ballhawk.

Overall, Smith-Wade must adapt a more disciplined approach in both coverage and run support to mask his lack of elite size, speed and strength, but he is a loose-moving and tough-minded athlete who has yet to play his best football. He projects as a developmental cornerback and could increase his NFL chances with a move inside.

Chau Smith-Wade intercepted two passes in the Senior Bowl and picked off three passes during his career at Washington State. (Vasha Hunt / USA Today)

Round 6

No. 200: Jaden Crumedy, DT, Mississippi State

How he fits

Jaden Crumedy has good size (6-4, 301). He also has experience, spending six years at Mississippi State — long enough to start five seasons for four head coaches and earn two degrees. A lot of Day 3 picks can play special teams. Not Crumedy. But he could make the DL rotation. He collected 35 tackles, 3 1/2 tackles for loss and 2 1/2 sacks last season in Starkville. — Joe Person

Dane Brugler’s analysis

A five-year starter at Mississippi State, Crumedy played primarily as a three-technique in former head coach Zach Arnett’s 3-3-5 base scheme while also working over the A-gap and as a four-technique end. Despite the changeover in Starkville (played for four head coaches), his talent found ways to stand out over the years even if it wasn’t consistent or always reflected in the stat sheet.

With low pads and knee bend, Crumedy plays explosive as a pass rusher, although his hands are more busy than efficient, and his rush plan needs to be more calculated to unlock his talent. His quickness and length show in the run game when he has lanes to pursue, but he plays with inconsistent gap control and allows angle blocks to get too far into him.

Overall, Crumedy’s tape is more sporadic than consistent, but if you grade the flashes, not many 300-pounders have his athletic movements and power potential, which will keep him around if his fire stays lit. He projects as a rotational three-technique in a 4-3 or five-technique in odd fronts.

Round 7

No. 240 (via Steelers)

(Photo of Jaden Crumedy: Kevin Sabitus / Getty Images)

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