Carolina Panthers 2021 NFL Draft Grades and Analysis

RD 1 PICK 8 – Jaycee Horn | CB

B+

Height – 6’1

Weight – 200 lbs

Remember former Pro Bowl receiver Joe Horn and his flip-phone touchdown celebration? Well his son, Jaycee Horn, ended up being Carolina’s first round pick. With “generational talents” Kyle Pitts and Penei Sewell off the board, Carolina elected to beef up the secondary going cornerback. The South Carolina product brings many attributes as a defender. Sure, Horn’s 4.39 forty-yard dash is impressive but what separates him is the long-limbed frame and physical play style. Most considered Patrick Surtain to be the best overall cornerback prospect in this year’s draft, but Horn was arguably the best cover corner available. Along with Horn’s man-coverage abilities, his length, athletic traits, and competitive drive is what brought Horn to Carolina.


RD 2 PICK 59 – Terrace Marshall Jr. | WR

A-

Height – 6’3

Weight – 200 lbs

It took Scott Fitterer a pair of trade backs to finally make a pick in round two. But at pick 59, the Panthers drafted the 6’3 LSU wide-out, Terrace Marshall. Now there are two interesting features about this pick: 1) Marshall played in Joe Brady’s LSU offense scoring 13 touchdowns in the National Championship season. 2) This pick made history as Marshall became the first offensive player drafted in the Matt Rhule era. No pressure, right? Anyways, the versatility of Marshall is what stands out. The ability to beat you outside or inside using his combination of speed and size is what makes Marshall a solid pick in round 2, especially after trading back twice. 


RD 3 PICK 70 – Brady Christensen | OT

A-

Height – 6’6

Weight – 305 lbs

Brady Christensen had no shortage of praise and awards during his time at BYU as he was named to the All-American team for 2020. Also, PFF graded Christensen as a 96.0 overall for his stellar season. The grade is one of the highest ever recorded for an offensive lineman. With tremendous upper-body strength and quick punches off the snap, the All-American could become a big help with the protection of Sam Darnold. Prospects should also take pride in being traded up for, and that’s exactly what Fritterer did in the early stages of round three. Expect Christensen to compete for the left tackle starting job this season.


RD 3 PICK 83 – Tommy Tremble | TE

A-

Height – 6’4

Weight – 250 lbs

Some referred  to Tommy Tremble as a boom-or-bust pick, but that is entirely wrong. While the 6’4 Notre Dame product isn’t necessarily a modern day tight-end, Tremble will knock your head off and then search for your teammate. The Panthers knew exactly what they were getting with Tremble- a tough player that focuses on what the team needs him to do. Along with these attractive traits, Tremble also brings speed; he ran a 4.63 at the Irish pro day. These athletic skills will give him a chance to develop into a productive target for Carolina. Whether or not this happens doesn’t make this a bad pick. Tommy Tremble only benefits the offense. 


RD 4 PICK 126 – Chuba Hubbard | RB

B+

Height – 6’0

Weight – 210 lbs

No one is happier than Matt Rhule’s wife with the Chuba Hubbard pick. I’m not kidding, Julie Rhule persuaded coach to draft the Oklahoma State standout in round four.  Non-college football casuals should know this name as Hubbard was one of the most productive backs in the entire nation over the past few seasons. In fact, Hubbard managed to find the endzone 36 times rushing for almost 3,500 yards during three collegiate seasons. Hubbard shouldn’t expect this type of load in Carolina as he will be starting his NFL career behind all-pro Christian McCaffrey.


RD 5 PICK 158 – Daviyon Nixon | DT

A+

Height – 6’3

Weight – 305 lbs

Easily the best value draft selection for Carolina came in round five with All-American, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Daviyon Nixon. This pick also works as a need because it helped strengthen the depth of Carolina’s defensive front. Nixon can push defenders with his powerful lower half, but also has the ability to squeeze through gaps with agile movements. Eventually, Panthers fans should expect Nixon to step into that starting role beside Derrick Brown. Nominate the Daviyon Nixon selection for best value pick of the draft, please. 


RD 5 PICK 166 – Keith Taylor | CB

B+

Height – 6’2

Weight – 190 lbs

Carolina found another lengthy press man corner with their 2nd pick in round five. The speed to stick with vertical receivers isn’t Keith Taylor’s speciality, but expect him to disrupt receivers at the line of scrimmage giving Brian Burns that extra second. In coverage, Taylor’s length will also help him break up balls at the catch point. This pick actually makes a lot of sense as Rhule got to work closely with Taylor at the Senior Bowl. Not to mention the value and need for more depth on the back-end was also there. Additionally, even though Taylor is listed as cornerback, Panthers fan could easily see him lineup at multiple positions in the secondary. 

RD 6 PICK 193 Deonte Brown | G

A-

Height – 6’3

Weight – 365 lbs

The offensive line got a lot less thin in round six by drafting an Alabama guard that weighs over 350 pounds! Deonte Brown is a wide human that shows surprising quickness off the snap. Taking a shot on someone with Brown’s skillset and size in round six is absolutely perfect. One more note to add is that Deonte held his own against Carolina’s former first round pick, Derrick Brown, back in 2019. 


RD 6 PICK 204 Shi Smith | WR

A-

Height – 5’10

Weight – 185 lbs

Speed and explosiveness kills in this league; Carolina gets both of these attributes from wide receiver, Shi Smith. The 5’10 receiver will be seen in the slot in Joe Brady’s offense, but he has some experience on the outside as well. Being able to maintain speed through cuts is Smith’s greatest speciality in my opinion. After the Terrace Marshall pick in round two, I was curious to see if Joe Brady would still search for that Curtis Samuel replacement. Smith may not be as gifted as Samuel when he was coming out of Ohio State, but Smith has some similar qualities that he can develop. 


RD 6 PICK 222 Thomas Fletcher | LS

A

Height – 6’1

Weight – 235 lbs

The long snapper from Alabama couldn’t believe his name was called during the draft. Once again, this was a prospect who gained accolades during his collegiate years and participated in the Senior Bowl. Fletcher should give longtime long snapper, J.J. Jansen some competition this season. Regardless, Panthers nation should expect to see Thomas Fletcher for a long time. 


RD 7 PICK 232 Phil Hoskins DT

B+

Height – 6’5

Weight – 315 lbs

I always like to say a defense can never have enough linemen. This motto is exactly how Carolina ended their 2021 draft. Their 11th and final pick was spent on another interior d-lineman, this time from Kentucky. Phil Hoskins brings size and length to the position along with a quick get-off. Other parts of Hoskins’ game are a working progress, but it’s hard to find a guy with a higher ceiling than the 315 pound lineman in round seven. 


OVERALL GRADE: A-

Acquiring extra picks is the theme of the Panthers 2021 NFL Draft. And if you think about it, Scott Fitterer got Sam Darnold for free following the number of picks collected in this draft. 

When analyzing an individual draft pick, there is nothing greater than the combination of a value and need selection. Carolina had multiple picks that fit this description. Daviyon Nixon happens to be the king of this type of pick- still can’t get over how we drafted him in round five. Brady Christensen fits the bill as well. Also, when drafting on day 3 it is important to draft guys with developmental traits. Chuba Hubbard doesn’t really fall under that category since he is a  proven back, but others like Keith Taylor, Shi Smith, and even Phil Hoskins show some potential. Overall, I’m really excited about the future of theses rookies. 

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