Who is Jonathon Brooks? Meet the Carolina Panthers’ second-round NFL Draft pick

The Carolina Panthers, after shifting around a bit on Friday night, landed at the 46th overall pick and used it to take explosive running back Jonathon Brooks.

The University of Texas star was the first running back to be taken in the 2024 NFL Draft, and the 20-year-old now joins Chuba Hubbard and Miles Sanders in the Panthers’ RB room.

Here are five things you should know about Carolina’s second-round pick.

1. Jonathan Brooks had a breakout year in 2024

The Panthers weren’t alone in thinking Brooks was the best running back in his draft class — and a lot of it had to do with his breakout year in 2023. The 6-foot, 216-pound running back rushed for 1,139 yards and 10 touchdowns as a redshirt sophomore, recording second-team All-Big 12 Conference honors. He missed the end of the season with a torn ACL (more on that below).

Prior to 2023, though, Brooks didn’t see much of the ball. He only notched 30 carries in 2022 — playing in seven games as a reserve behind 2023 NFL Draft picks Bijan Robinson (No. 8 overall by the Falcons) and Roschon Johnson (fourth-round pick by the Bears). He redshirted in 2021 after playing four games.

His career alone shows the lineage of Texas running backs. Brooks said he attended Texas because of the running backs produced by the program. Head coach Steve Sarkisian released a lengthy, effusive statement about Brooks once he was drafted.

“I just spent some time with him the other day,” Sarkisian said. “He looks great, said he feels great, and Carolina is going to get a lot of value out of Jonathon at this pick because he could have been a first-round guy if he’d been healthy. Everything he’s getting right now he’s earned. He’s the top running back off the board, and I couldn’t be more excited for him and his family.”

Texas running back Jonathon Brooks during a 2023 game against Houston. Ricardo B. Brazziell / Austin American-Statesman
Texas running back Jonathon Brooks during a 2023 game against Houston. Ricardo B. Brazziell / Austin American-Statesman

2. Brooks has an injury history

Brooks ended his breakout 2023 campaign early with a torn ACL in a game against TCU on Nov. 11. An NBC report from the NFL Scouting Combine stated that through 12 weeks of rehab Brooks thought he was ahead of schedule. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network concurred with the report saying that Brooks is expected to be a full go by July 1 — in other words in time for training camp. Brooks also confirmed that timeline, detailing that the injury was “a clean tear” of the ligament, which made the recovery less complicated.

3. Panthers add another running back to a stable room

Many Panthers fans might’ve found the selection surprising. After all, for a team with so many holes to fill — particularly in the defensive secondary — Carolina’s brass instead decided to double-down on its “take the best available player” philosophy they entered the draft with after free agency.

The Panthers are more or less set at running back. Chuba Hubbard, fresh off a career season where he rushed for 902 yards and five touchdowns, was expected to be the unquestioned starter, with Miles Sanders serving as the expected reserve. Earlier this year, at the NFL’s annual meeting, head coach Dave Canales said he was “fired up” about the running back room the Panthers had.

4. Brooks plays the game for his late father

Whenever Brooks scores a touchdown, he touches his right forearm, which is tattooed with the numbers 3-28-2022. That’s the date his father, James “Skip” Brooks, died at the age of 49 after struggling with kidney failure.

5. Dallas Cowboys might’ve wanted him

It’s true that Brooks is a Texas kid, through and through. His high school jersey is retired in Hallettsville, a small Texas town roughly 100 miles southeast of Austin. He joined the Texas Longhorns.

What would’ve continued the trend is if the Dallas Cowboys drafted him.

And they potentially would’ve had Carolina not intervened.

“In my 30 years I thought it was the best interview that I ever interviewed with a player,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said of Brooks ahead of the draft. “He’s outstanding. And he’s a great football player.”

All this said, Brooks had what he called his “best” pre-draft meeting with Carolina, and he said he really liked the “plan” the Panthers laid out for him. That started with a meeting with Panthers running backs coach Bernie Parmalee.

“We had a long meeting with him,” Brooks said Friday after his selection. “He just talked about football, myself, how he thinks things could play out, things like that. And then they had me sit down with their physical trainers and their rehab staff, and they had a plan set. They knew what they were talking about. They knew exactly where I was in my rehab. And they told me if I was there what they’d be doing.”

He added: “It gave me a sense of stability and confidence in them, knowing they knew what they were talking about, knowing they had a plan for me.”