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What the Panthers current roster tells us about draft position and depth charts

There’s something magic about Top 70 picks.

2021 NFL Draft Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It’s human nature for us as Panthers fans to get a little too optimistic about the future prospects of this year’s draft picks. I’ve been guilty of it myself. For example, I keep playing out scenarios in my head that feature defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon (fifth round), guard Deonte Brown (sixth round), and wide receiver Shi Smith (sixth round) not only making this year’s 53-man roster, but immediately contributing. While I hate to burst my own bubble, that’s probably not going to happen.

Let’s take a look at what the Panthers projected depth chart tells us about draft position and players’ ability to contribute on the field. I’ve used ESPN’s depth chart and my own personal evaluation to determine which players will likely be starters or regular contributors in 2021. In all I’ve captured 30 players across the offense and defense. Here’s where they were drafted:

1st Round (9)

3 - QB Sam Darnold

7 - DT Derrick Brown

8 - CB Jaycee Horn

8 - RB Christian McCaffrey

13 - OLB Haason Reddick

16 - DE Brian Burns

19 - OT Cam Erving

24 - WR DJ Moore

25 - LB Shaq Thompson

2nd Round (6)

38 - DE Yetur Gross-Matos

48 - LB Denzel Perryman

55 - CB Donte Jackson

59 - WR Terrace Marshall Jr.

64 - S Jeremy Chinn

64 - OT Taylor Moton

3rd Round (3)

70 - OT Brady Christensen

70 - G Pat Elflein

81 - G John Miller

4th Round (2)

101 - TE Ian Thomas

118 - S Juston Burris

5th Round (1)

161 - LB Jermaine Carter Jr.

6th Round (2)

184 - DT Bravvion Roy

207 - C Matt Paradis

7th Round (1)

226 - WR David Moore

Undrafted Free Agents (6)

WR Robby Anderson

TE Dan Arnold

CB AJ Bouye

DE Morgan Fox

CB Rahsaan Melvin

OT Trent Scott

In all, 17 of the 30 main contributors were selected somewhere among the Top 70. Only seven players were drafted between No. 71 and the end of the seventh round (usually about No. 255) while six undrafted players should get significant playing time. And let’s remember that hundreds of UDFAs flood the NFL every year so it’s not surprising to see more of them on the roster than the relatively limited numbers of players drafted in each of the later rounds.

But looking at things by round doesn’t tell the full story. Rounds are ultimately arbitrary, so it’s more helpful to look at the draft in increments of 10 picks. For example, a player taken at No. 32 is a first round pick while No. 33 is a second rounder despite being separated by just one spot. Here’s the breakdown when looking at where players were drafted in smaller bands:

While it’s human nature for us as fans to be optimistic about Carolina’s mid-round picks, maybe we need to temper expectations for Daviyon Nixon, Deonte Brown, Shi Smith and other players selected after No. 70. Only time will tell if the Panthers have found some diamonds in the rough in this year’s draft, but for now the pattern holds that the higher the draft pick, the higher they tend to fall on the depth chart.