Carolina Panthers 2021 NFL Draft Recapby Celeste Sabin May 6, 2021 1 comment
The Carolina Panthers set and tied franchise records in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Panthers set the franchise record with five trades during the draft and tied the franchise record with 11 drafted players. The last time this happened was in 1995 when the Panthers were an expansion team.
This was general manager Scott Fitterer’s first draft with the team, and head coach Matt Rhule’s second. In 2020 the Panthers drafted all defensive line picks, so most expected the first pick to be an offensive line position, but Jaycee Horn, the cornerback from the University of South Carolina was their first pick in the first round, eighth overall.
On the first day of the draft, the Panthers traded their first second-round pick (39th) to the Chicago Bears while on the clock for their pick. In addition to the 29th pick, Carolina also gave the Bears the 151st pick in trade for picks 52, 83, and 204.
Carolina continued the trades on Friday first by trading the 52nd and 113th pick to the Cleveland Browns for the 69th and 89th pick. They then traded the 89th pick to the Houston Texans for the 109th and 158th pick in addition to a 2012 fourth-round pick. They kept trading on the final day of the draft by trading the 109th spot to the Tennessee Titans for the 126th, 166th, 232nd picks.
Make sure to check out all of our 2021 NFL Draft Team Recaps.
Best Pick: Jaycee Horn (Round 1, Pick 8)
Horn is the son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn. Horn was an integral part of the South Carolina Gamecocks defensive line. In his time with the Gamecocks, Horn recorded 101 total tackles, 69 of them solo with seven tackles for loss. He also put three sacks, two interceptions, 23 pass deflections, and two forced fumbles in the books.
Horn was the first defender off of the board and this sent a pretty clear message the Panthers want to solidify the defensive line they worked on last season. He is an aggressive and physical player and very well could be cornerback number one this year.
Worst Pick: Keith Taylor (Round 5, Pick 166)
It was pretty hard to choose the “worst pick” in a draft class that is so full of talent and fills out the Carolina roster so well. Our editors didn’t want this to be the last round pick, which would have been my choice for the “worst pick.” It was truly very hard to choose the worst pick, even with 11 to choose from.
Taylor didn’t have the opportunity to fine-tune his skills in his senior year at Washington since the Huskies only played four games due to Covid-19. He started in all four games in 2020 and all 13 games in 2019. Taylor made a good impression on the Panthers scouting crew at the Senior Bowl and he felt as if they might take him. “I kind of had a little bit of a feeling the Pathers might take me, but you never know.”
Sleeper Pick: Shi Smith (Round 6, Pick 204)
For the first time in team history, Carolina drafted two players from the South Carolina Gamecocks. Smith will join former teammate, Horn in Charlotte for their rookie year. In a dismal year for the Gamecocks, Horn and Smith were shining stars.
Smith led South Carolina with 57 catches for 633 yards and four touchdowns in 2020. He put 174 total receptions for 2,204 yards and 13 touchdowns in the record books during his four years with the Gamecocks. Smith is fast out of the slot and is a good target in an open field. His speed and agility should pair well with Sam Darnold, who the Panthers’ acquired from the New York Jets in the offseason.
The Panthers entered the draft with the intention of filling as many gaps as possible in their roster and all of the trades proved such. Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady set the game plan last season in what it would take to rebuild this team and they built upon that foundation this year. With a healthy mix of players on both sides of the ball, in addition to the talent already on the team, the Panthers should have a better record in 2021.
Overall Grade: A