Projecting Carolina Panthers’ depth chart following the 2024 NFL Draft: Who starts at WR?

The Carolina Panthers shook up their depth chart during NFL Draft weekend. Now, they’ll look to put all the pieces together as they enter the heart of the offseason program.

Following a haul of seven rookie draft picks, the Panthers will begin competitions at several spots, including wide receiver, running back, linebacker, tight end and cornerback.

As the Panthers prepare to challenge their incumbent roster, here is a projection of how the depth chart looks entering organized team activities:

Notes: This depth chart doesn’t feature undrafted free agents as those rookie signings aren’t official as of Tuesday. Italics represent 2024 draft picks.


The starter: Bryce Young

The backup: Andy Dalton

The Panthers will add an arm or two to the mix ahead of training camp (they’ve agreed to terms with undrafted Louisville QB Jack Plummer, for instance), as head coach Dave Canales has said that he’d like an experienced third arm on the practice squad heading into the regular season. Young is the unquestioned starter, Dalton is the unquestioned backup. The only question that remains is: Will Young have a major redemption season under a new head coach and offensive coaching staff with several upgrades around him?

Running back

The starter: Chuba Hubbard

The backups: Miles Sanders, Jonathon Brooks, Raheem Blackshear, Tarik Cohen, Mike Boone, Spencer Brown

The Panthers surprised onlookers on Friday when they traded up to select Brooks, who became the first running back off the board. Brooks, at worst, should be competing for a package role as a rookie. Coming off an ACL injury, the Panthers are likely to ease Brooks into action during training camp. Hubbard, the anointed offseason starter, will compete with Brooks and Sanders for the top job on the depth chart this summer. Hubbard is entering the final year of his contract, and he needs a big season to cash in on his next deal. Sanders, like Young, is looking for a big bounce-back year in 2024.

Wide receiver

The starters: Diontae Johnson, Xavier Legette, Adam Thielen (slot)

The backups: Jonathan Mingo, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, David Moore, Terrace Marshall, Cam Sims, Michael Strachan, Jalen Camp

The Panthers didn’t trade up for Legette just to have him wait around on the bench. Legette is an excellent complement for Johnson and Thielen, a pair of veterans who are notable route runners. The trio should be able to immediately provide aerial support for Young in the passing game.

From there, Mingo, Smith-Marsette, Moore and Marshall are competing to round out the group. Smith-Marsette has a leg up because of his punt return ability, while Mingo was selected 39th overall just last year. Moore and Marshall are probably battling for one job, while the sixth spot could be secured by a dark horse youngster.

New Carolina Panthers receiver Xavier Legette arrives at Bank of America Stadium on Friday, April 26, 2024. The Panthers traded up to No. 32 overall, the final pick of the NFL Draft’s first round, to select Legette.
New Carolina Panthers receiver Xavier Legette arrives at Bank of America Stadium on Friday, April 26, 2024. The Panthers traded up to No. 32 overall, the final pick of the NFL Draft’s first round, to select Legette.

Tight end

The starter: Tommy Tremble

The backups: Ja’Tavion Sanders, Ian Thomas, Stephen Sullivan, Jordan Matthews, Chris Pierce

Despite the notable hype he received from draft analysts, Sanders fell all the way to the fourth round on Saturday. While he is an intriguing playmaker with impressive athleticism, he is still raw at the tight end position. That’s why Tremble, an ascending talent, is likely to own the top job. Sanders and Thomas will compete to get on the field with Tremble in two-tight end sets, and that competition could bring out the best in both of them. Sanders also figures to see some big slot looks in 11 personnel. Sullivan, Matthews and Pierce will battle to force a fourth tight end on the roster through special teams.

Offensive line

The starters: Ikem Ekwonu (LT), Damien Lewis (LG), Austin Corbett (C), Robert Hunt (RG), Taylor Moton (RT)

The backups: Yosh Nijman, Brady Christensen, Cade Mays, Nash Jensen, Chandler Zavala, J.D. DiRenzo, Ricky Lee, Ilm Manning, Badara Traore

The Panthers spent considerable money on the offensive line this season. Lewis and Hunt were given huge contracts on the open market, while Nijman received a nice deal to serve as the team’s primary swing tackle. Corbett, the team’s former starting right guard, will move to center, and the Panthers decided not to challenge the veteran with a draft pick. Ekwonu and Moton will stick to their offensive tackle spots, while Christensen will be demoted to a key depth role after two seasons as the starting left guard. Christensen has the ability to play all five offensive line positions, making him still a valuable asset for the team.

With seven linemen seemingly locked in, Mays, Jensen, Zavala, DiRenzo, Lee, Manning and Traore are competing for roughly three jobs this summer. Mays likely has a leg up due to his versatility, while Zavala was just taken in the fourth round last year.

Defensive line

The starters: Derrick Brown, Shy Tuttle, A’Shawn Robinson

The backups: LaBryan Ray, Nick Thurman, Jaden Crumedy, Raequan Williams

Brown, Tuttle and Robinson form a strong starting trio. The Panthers decided to add to the depth of the line by selecting Crumedy in the sixth round on Saturday. Crumedy will compete with Ray, Thurman and Williams in training camp. That backup group will likely compete for just two or three jobs. Versatility will be the key to winning a position.

Inside linebacker

The starters: Shaq Thompson, Josey Jewell

The backups: Trevin Wallace, Tae Davis, Michael Barrett, Chandler Wooten, Claudin Cherelus

With Shaq Thompson coming off a major leg injury, the Panthers decided to fortify their inside linebacker depth with a third-round pick. Wallace was brought in to serve as an immediate backup to Thompson and Jewell, a free-agent addition with ties to defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero.

With Thompson and Jewell both turning 30 within the calendar year, the Panthers needed to start creating a succession plan for at least one of those two defenders. While Jewell signed a three-year deal in March, Thompson is in the final year of his contract. Wallace could be Thompson’s immediate understudy and eventual replacement.

The Panthers then double-dipped with the seventh round pick of Barrett. The late-round rookie will compete with Davis, Wooten and Cherelus for one or two roster spots. Special teams will matter greatly in that competition.

Ball State Cardinals tight end Tanner Koziol (88) is tackled by Kentucky Wildcats linebacker Trevin Wallace (32) during their 2023 game.
Ball State Cardinals tight end Tanner Koziol (88) is tackled by Kentucky Wildcats linebacker Trevin Wallace (32) during their 2023 game.

Edge rusher

The starters: Jadeveon Clowney, D.J. Wonnum

The backups: Amare Barno, D.J. Johnson, K’Lavon Chaisson, Eku Leota, Luiji Vilain

The Panthers reinforced their pass rusher depth in free agency with the additions of Clowney and Wonnum on a pair of two-year deals. With those former Gamecocks leading the way, the Panthers decided to pass on the position in the draft, even with several question marks behind them. Barno, Johnson and Chaisson should receive opportunities to earn the main backup role at the position. Leota and Vilain are probably going to compete with undrafted free agents for a single job.


The starters: Jaycee Horn, Dane Jackson, Troy Hill (nickel)

The backups: Chau Smith-Wade, Dicaprio Bootle, D’Shawn Jamison, Lamar Jackson, AJ Parker

As of now, Horn, Jackson and Hill are projected to be the top three players at cornerback. But the Panthers haven’t been shy about their interest in Stephon Gilmore, so that situation is worth monitoring, as the 34-year-old is aging but still capable of making an impact. The Panthers are likely to keep five or six cornerbacks, and with Smith-Wade — the team’s fifth-round pick — on the roster, the competition for a potential final spot will likely come down to Bootle and Jamison.


The starters: Xavier Woods, Jordan Fuller

The backups: Nick Scott, Sam Franklin, Jammie Robinson, Alex Cook

Safety feels like the most secure position on defense. Woods and Fuller make up a solid starting duo, while Scott and Franklin have plenty of experience and are special teams standouts. Robinson and Cook both earned valuable experience as rookies, and they should be able to provide support on special teams as well. If the Panthers decide to keep just five safeties, Franklin, Robinson and Cook could stage one of the most intriguing battles in camp.


The starters: Johnny Hekker (P), Eddy Piñeiro (K), JJ Jansen (LS)

So far, the specialists haven’t been challenged (though, the Panthers have agreed to terms with undrafted Missouri kicker Harrison Mevis). Piñeiro no-showed the voluntary veteran minicamp before the draft and a reason wasn’t given for that absence. With a new special teams coordinator in town, the Panthers will try to push the incumbent kicker.