Predicting Roles for Each Panthers Rookie in 2021

A look at how the rookies can contribute to the Panthers this upcoming season.
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CB Jaycee Horn - Day 1 starter

You don't draft a guy at No. 8 at a position of need if you don't think he's capable of playing right away. Yes, A.J. Bouye and Rashaan Melvin were nice pickups in free agency but Horn is a special talent and brings a level of toughness, physicality, and swagger that the Panthers defense needs.

WR Terrace Marshall Jr. - No. 3 WR

I wouldn't be surprised if Marshall starts off as the fourth option behind David Moore but Marshall has familiarity with Joe Brady's offense and that will give him a bit of a headstart in his transition to the NFL. Also, he brings something to the Carolina wide receiving corps that they didn't have before - a big body that can catch the ball in traffic and help improve the aerial attack in the red zone. 

OT Brady Christensen - Backup/depth player

Although Cameron Erving is not the best option long-term for the Panthers, he will be for 2021 unless they make a move or sign someone. Christensen is going to be challenged and his strength/power is not quite up to par just yet which will give him some trouble against the premier pass rushers in the NFC South. Learning behind Erving on the left side or Moton on the right side seems to be the best option during his rookie year. 

TE Tommy Tremble - Chess piece

Tremble is a tough son of a gun that is going to see a ton of playing time whether it be at tight end or fullback - Joe Brady is going to find a way to get him on the field. He is not the best receiving tight end on the roster but he has the potential to develop into more than just an elite blocker. 

RB Chuba Hubbard - RB2

As good as Mike Davis was a year ago, I think Hubbard could be an upgrade. It's not a guarantee due to past injury concerns but if he can stay healthy there's no reason to believe that he shouldn't be any further down the depth chart than at No. 2 behind only Christian McCaffrey. Remember, just two years ago Hubbard rushed for over 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns and was considered one of the best running backs in the country.

DT Daviyon Nixon - Rotational DT

GM Scott Fitterer did a great job in the draft of letting the board fall to him and not reaching for players. In some instances, like drafting Nixon, he got tremendous value. Nixon probably should have gone in the late 3rd round or at very worst, the 4th, yet Fitterer landed him in the 5th. Nixon will be battling with Bravvion Roy for that third spot in the defensive tackle rotation. He's got great athleticism which will overcome his average bull rush abilities. 

CB Keith Taylor Jr. - Special teamer/depth

The Panthers have a ton of options at corner and unfortunately for Taylor, he seems to be near the bottom of the depth chart. He has to prove that can make plays on the ball, force turnovers, and be a little more aggressive. The talent/skillset is not in question, there are just some areas of his game that need to be cleaned up that will hold him back from having a significant role early in his career.

OG Deonte Brown - Depth/possible 2nd half (of the season) starter

Brown is going to need to become a little more rangy and athletic. He didn't allow a single sack in his collegiate career but still will need to improve his lateral movement to be successful in the NFL. If he can maintain his weight and play with it at a high level, he will emerge into a candidate to start at one of the two guard spots toward the end of the season. 

WR Shi Smith - No. 5/6 WR, returner

Smith can be an explosive playmaker but didn't get to showcase that while at South Carolina due to poor quarterback play. The Panthers' wide receiving corps is pretty deep so Smith will have to really impress the coaching staff in training camp to carve out a role in the offense. He has some experience returning kicks so I would expect the Panthers to give him a look there as well. Good player down the road, just needs time. 

LS Thomas Fletcher - Starter?

Signing a long snapper is one thing, drafting one is another. The fact that Rhule and Fitterer used a draft pick on Fletcher shows the level of confidence they have in him. This also could be foreshadowing a release of the longest-tenured Panther, J.J. Jansen.

DT Phil Hoskins - Depth/possible practice squad

Selecting Hoskins was a little bit of a surprise in the seventh round but they like his size and raw power. He will likely be buried on the depth chart behind Derrick Brown, DaQuan Jones, Bravvion Roy, and Daviyon Nixon. He's not a guarantee to make the 53-man roster.

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