Fantasy Uncertainty: Panthers WRs

Adam Nardelli breaks down the Panthers' receiver room

The summer months have arrived, which means football season is closely on the horizon!  Soon enough we’ll all be in a backyard putting stickers on a board with a cheeseburger in our other hand. Or maybe you’ll just be tapping a name on your phone, but regardless your fantasy drafts aren’t that far off.  To help you get ready, I’ll be digging into different backfields and receiving corps around the NFL where we’re still searching for some clarity.  We’ll dive into the question marks surrounding said position group, the ADPs (average draft positions) of the most fantasy-relevant players, and how we should maneuver around these uncertainties in our drafts.

In each post, I’ll break down the key names to know in the backfield or receiving corps.  Some backfields and receiving groups may have multiple names to know depending on the situation. Others will have two main players dictating the situation.   Since it’s still early in the summer, all average draft positions (ADPs) will be based on Underdog best ball data from

While there are still plenty of uncertain backfields around the NFL, we’ll take a break and dive into the Panthers receiving corps.  New general manager Dan Morgan clearly emphasized surrounding Bryce Young with more receiving talent after he traded for Diontae Johnson and moved up to the end of the first round to draft Xavier Legette.  Sure, the Panthers offense was putrid in 2023. But that coaching staff and their offensive system is long gone.  It’s worth noting new head coach Dave Canales had two straight years of success with Geno Smith and Baker Mayfield, two guys who were a few steps away from working at Home Depot (not that there’s anything wrong with Home Depot).  Why can’t he do the same with a guy who was the #1 overall pick just last year?  Let’s break down the value this Panthers receiving corps may give us in our upcoming drafts.


Names to know:


Diontae Johnson:

The Steelers traded Johnson to Carolina at the beginning of free agency in an attempt to bolster the receiving options around QB Bryce Young.   2023 was a disappointment for Johnson after he missed four games and only came away with 51 catches for 717 yards – a steep dip from his numbers the previous three years.  A down season, however, gives fantasy managers a decent discount on a guy who should be the number-one receiver in Carolina.

New head coach Dave Canales has a recent history of supporting multiple fantasy-relevant receivers.  In 2023 Mike Evans and Chris Godwin each had 130+ targets, 79+ catches, and 1,000+ yards in the Bucs’ offense coached by Canales.  Johnson used to play mostly out of the slot, but lined up outside on 78.8% of plays last year.  According to Dave Richard of CBS Sports, Johnson’s most successful route in 2023 was the out route, which matches up with Bryce Young’s most successful thrown route as a rookie.

It’s hard to get overly excited about anyone on the Panthers, but clearly Johnson should have plenty of opportunities to be productive in an offensive system that has proven to be successful in recent years.  And with an ADP in the seventh round, Johnson could provide plenty of value to drafters.  Would it be a shock if we fast forward to the end of September and fantasy managers are kicking themselves for not drafting the target hog that Johnson could be?


Xavier Legette:

The Panthers traded up one spot to draft the South Carolina product with the last pick of the first round in this year’s draft.  Obviously, the Panthers front office has a vision for Legette if they were willing to give up draft capital, albeit not a significant amount, to ensure they came away with Legette.  NFL Draft Analyst Dane Brugler highlighted Legette’s catch-and-run effectiveness on shorter throws like bubble screens, slants, and crossing routes.  At 6’1 and 221 pounds, he uses his size well in contested catch situations, giving Bryce Young a new target who can both eat up yards after the catch and come down with tight-window throws.  With a mid-12th-round ADP, Legette could be worth a chance considering Dave Canales and Panthers brass made it a priority to add him to their offense.


Adam Thielen:

The soon-to-be 34-year-old receiver was ultra-productive out of the slot early on in 2023.   Being part of a terrible offense, Frank Reich’s firing mid-season, and just being generally old all likely contributed to Thielen cooling off a bit before season’s end.  The situation for his fantasy relevance didn’t get any better with the Panthers adding Johnson and Legette in the offseason.  He’s gone from the first option to possibly the third receiving target in Carolina depending on how things shake out. With his ADP in the middle of the 14th round, there’s no risk in taking the former Viking. But at that point of the draft, a younger player with a higher upside is the much more attractive option.  I’m okay with being wrong if a receiver well into his 30s whose target competition has significantly increased turns out to be a helpful fantasy option in 2024.


Jonathan Mingo:

The big-framed second-year receiver came into his rookie season with lofty expectations.  The hope was he would follow in the footsteps of fellow Ole Miss receivers AJ Brown and DK Metcalf and emerge as a stud pass catcher early in his career.  Obviously, the opposite happened.  He’s buried on the depth chart as potentially the fourth receiver and is basically free in drafts.  Dave Canales also has no allegiance to him.   Mingo is nothing more than a dart throw at the very end of drafts with his ADP of the late 18th round.


The lack of significant investment needed to secure members of the Panthers receiving corps makes them an intriguing group to target in 2024.  A 7th-round pick for a #1 wideout in a receiver-friendly offense makes me rather bullish on Diontae Johnson.  His best season came with a 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger who could no longer throw the ball down the field, so Johnson doesn’t need an elite quarterback to put up numbers for your fantasy team.  Drafting any other Panthers receivers is like shopping in the Wal-Mart clearance section, so if you take a swing don’t lose any sleep over it.


Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Aaron Asbury (@aarongifs on Instagram)

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