Panthers rookie watch: Class of 2020 gets strong grade, ranking from NFL.com

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Tim Weaver
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It’s only been one year. However, the early returns for the Carolina Panthers’ 2020 draft class are solid. They didn’t get much from their Day 3 picks but their first three selections – Auburn DT Derrick Brown, Penn State DE Yetur Gross-Matos and Southern Illinois DB/LB Jeremy Chinn – all had strong rookie campaigns in their own different ways.

Now that the season is overwith, Carolina’s strong rookie class is getting some props. The crew over at NFL.com has given the Panthers’ rookies a B+ grade for the year and ranked them No. 10 in the league. Here’s what they had to say about Gross-Matos’ season.

“Gross-Matos adjusted after a slow start to the season, finishing with three sacks, 17 stops and 22 disruptions, including a turnover caused by a pressure.”

With a little better luck in the injury department, Gross-Matos is the one second-year we’re looking for to explode in 2021. He flashed some monster potential as a pass rusher in a couple of games and might blossom into a serious force opposite Brian Burns with a full NFL offseason behind him.

Brown made some rookie mistakes early and at one point even led the league in penalties. Eventually he cleaned those up and he caught fire down the stretch, especially getting pressure on the quarterback. His breakout game against the Packers showed how disruptive he can be when the entire defensive line is clicking.

As for Chinn, he’s the centerpiece of this draft class. He showed tremendous instincts and range for such a young player, but also clearly has room to improve in coverage. If he can address that part of his game, we’re looking at a potential perennial Pro Bowler.

There are a few other interesting pieces to keep track of, as well. Undrafted free agent DBs Sam Franklin and Myles Hartsfield might both see bigger roles in the future.

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