Former Panthers general manager Marty Hurney made a career out of picking stars in the first round of the draft. From Julius Peppers to D.J. Moore, he always seemed to hit on those important No. 1 picks. He was notably less successful finding talent in the later rounds of the draft, though. That’s just one of the reasons he was recently fired and replaced by Scott Fitterer, who comes to Carolina from the Seahawks.
That Seattle team peaked when they had several late-round picks blossoming into full-blown superstars. If the Panthers can start finding gems on Day 2 and 3 of the draft, it will go a long way towards getting them back in the playoff picture. Here are 21 sleeper prospects to watch in the draft class of 2021.
Keith Taylor Jr. CB, Washington: 6-foot-2, 191 lbs
Taylor is a long, lanky corner that had a really nice week at the Senior Bowl.…
Taylor is a long, lanky corner that had a really nice week at the Senior Bowl. He has blazing speed and plays with physicality in press-man coverage. Much of his technique will have to be ironed out, but Taylor has the upside to be a highly effective outside corner in the NFL.
David Moore G, Grambling State: 6-foot-1, 350 lbs
Moore is built exactly the way you want an NFL guard to be built – short,…
Moore is built exactly the way you want an NFL guard to be built – short, squatty, and compact. Moore has surprising movement ability to get to the second level and hit those reach/pull blocks that an NFL offense demands. There will surely be a bit of a learning curve here (not facing FBS competition), but Moore has about as much upside as at guard as anyone in this class.
Reed Blankenship S, Middle Tennessee State: 6-foot-1, 196 lbs
Blankenship is a versatile defensive back that mainly played single high safety for the Blue Raiders.…
Blankenship is a versatile defensive back that mainly played single high safety for the Blue Raiders. He possesses lightning quick speed, big time ball-hawking ability, and natural instincts in coverage, which can definitely translate to early success. The question with Blankenship is how well he will make the jump from lower-level Division 1 to the speed/talent of NFL receivers.
Marquez Stevenson WR, Houston: 5-foot-10, 182 lbs
Stevenson is a true deep threat with his electric speed and tremendous ability to track the…
Stevenson is a true deep threat with his electric speed and tremendous ability to track the deep ball. His slender frame, lack of physicality, and adequate route running do raise some concern. However, if Stevenson finds himself in the right situation as strictly a deep threat receiver on passing downs, he could carve out a nice spot for himself at the next level.
JD Spielman WR, TCU: 5-foot-9, 180 lbs
Spielman is an exciting slot receiver, and returner, with solid speed and tremendous short area agility.…
Spielman is an exciting slot receiver, and returner, with solid speed and tremendous short area agility. He has reps on his film that simply makes defenders look silly, both in coverage and going for the tackle. His small frame raises concern, but Spielman can provide some immediate value at slot or in the return game if he finds the right team.
Blake Proehl WR, ECU: 6-foot-1, 185 lbs
You guessed it; Proehl is indeed the son of Panther legend Ricky Proehl. While he does…
You guessed it; Proehl is indeed the son of Panther legend Ricky Proehl. While he does not have blazing over-the-top speed, Proehl has really strong hands and runs crisp routes that help him create consistent separation. He will definitely be a late round pick (possibly undrafted), but has all the raw tools you look for as a slot receiver to carve out an eventual role in the NFL.
Tommy Kraemer G, Notre Dame: 6-foot-6, 319 pounds
Although Kraemer is projected to be an early day three pick, he is being severely overshadowed…
Although Kraemer is projected to be an early day three pick, he is being severely overshadowed by his collegiate teammates at Notre Dame (Liam Eichenberg, Aaron Banks, Robert Hainsey). Kraemer is a four year starter into his graduate season and has held down the interior line at an All-American level of play, being named to the third team in 2020 and second team in 2019. He would be an immediate upgrade along the interior front for most teams and projects very well to the NFL.
Quin Meinerz C/G, Wisconsin-Whitewater: 6-foot-3, 320 lbs
Meinerz undoubtedly made the most waves at Senior Bowl week. He displayed brute strength, tremendous movement…
Meinerz undoubtedly made the most waves at Senior Bowl week. He displayed brute strength, tremendous movement ability, and excellent re-direct ability throughout practices and the game. One would think there would be quite the learning curve coming from a Division III level, but his ability to man-handle top Division 1 pass rushers was very eye opening. Meinerz could find himself starting week one in the NFL and providing immediate impact.
Malik Herring IDL, Georgia: 6-foot-3, 285 lbs
Herring is a bit undersized, but he possesses some exciting explosiveness along the defensive front. He…
Herring is a bit undersized, but he possesses some exciting explosiveness along the defensive front. He lined up as an interior rusher and at edge for the Bulldogs, and is definitely projected as a “tweener”. His raw athleticism, that few interior defensive linemen have, and positional versatility make him a very enticing day three pick.
Tarron Jackson EDGE, Coastal Carolina: 6-foot-3, 265 lbs
Jackson is an athletic freak that displays a quick get-off out of his stance and positional…
Jackson is an athletic freak that displays a quick get-off out of his stance and positional versatility using his raw strength. There is so much potential yet to be tapped with Jackson. He has not hit his physical ceiling (strength) yet and really only uses the club/over move as his go to counter. If NFL coaches can simply teach him a wider variety of pass rush moves and add another 5-10 pounds to his frame, Jackson could become a dangerous edge rusher at the next level.
Joshua Kaindoh DL, Florida State: 6-foot-7, 250 lbs
It is easy to tell that Kaindoh possesses elite physical traits that can translate to huge…
It is easy to tell that Kaindoh possesses elite physical traits that can translate to huge success in the NFL. His length and plus athleticism will be very favorable in adapting to the next level, but coaches will need to their thing and develop his pass rush moves and add a good bit of weight to his frame. By doing so Kaindoh could turn into a dynamic pass rusher that lines up at any position along the defensive front.
Patrick Johnson EDGE, Tulane: 6-foot-3, 255 lbs
Johnson has had a ton of success at the collegiate level racking up 24.5 sacks, 35…
Johnson has had a ton of success at the collegiate level racking up 24.5 sacks, 35 tackles for loss, and six forced fumbles over his three years as a starter. He has a great understanding of moves to get into the backfield and shows plus athleticism. Johnson could see the field early and provide surprising impact for a day three pick.
KJ Britt LB, Auburn: 6-foot, 239 lbs
Britt is a ton of fun to watch, as he shows off some freaky athleticism and…
Britt is a ton of fun to watch, as he shows off some freaky athleticism and willingness to rock the ball carrier with everything he has. His physical and athletic traits are there, but if Britt can dig into the film room to reduce his inconsistencies against the run he has some really exciting potential in a Mike or Sam linebacker role at the next level.
Garret Wallow LB, TCU: 6-foot-2, 230 lbs
Wallow is a converted safety who displays explosive athleticism, quality read/react ability in the run game,…
Wallow is a converted safety who displays explosive athleticism, quality read/react ability in the run game, and high energy. He is still fairly new to the position but has made tremendous strides the past two seasons thanks to his great athleticism and natural instincts in coverage. Wallow is trending in the right direction and could eventually become an every down linebacker in the NFL.
Grant Stuard LB, Houston: 5-foot-11, 230 lbs
Stuard is a tackling machine that plays like a heat-seeking missile that comes screaming into the…
Stuard is a tackling machine that plays like a heat-seeking missile that comes screaming into the ball carrier with no regard for human life. He has excellent instincts, both in short/underneath coverage and against the run, and pairs it with plus athleticism. Stuard is not even on some big boards around the scouting community because of size, but he could undoubtedly provide some kind of impact on special teams or third downs as a Will linebacker in subpackages.
Bryan Mills CB, North Carolina Central: 6-foot-1, 180 lbs
Mills had a great week in Mobile and proved he can hold his own against the…
Mills had a great week in Mobile and proved he can hold his own against the top receivers in the country. He is a long and lanky corner with great athleticism that excels in press-man coverage. There will obviously be a learning curve, but if it clicks for Mills he could become a really nice corner at the next level.
Camryn Bynum CB, California: 6-foot, 200 lbs
Bynum is not the fastest or most physical corner, but Bynum plays his position well and…
Bynum is not the fastest or most physical corner, but Bynum plays his position well and is rock-solid in press-man and zone coverage. He has nice hip fluidity, excellent ball skills, and mirrors his receiver quite well. Bynum could potentially be useful as an outside corner in a press-man or zone heavy scheme.
Tre Norwood DB, Oklahoma: Six-foot, 192 lbs
Norwood has lined up at outside corner, safety, and nickel for the Sooners and played well…
Norwood has lined up at outside corner, safety, and nickel for the Sooners and played well everywhere he went. He has natural instincts in zone and has shown that he has the athleticism to run with slot receivers in man-to-man coverage as well. For a day three pick, Norwood could become an impact player as a nice chess piece in the secondary.
Damar Hamlin S, Pittsburgh: 6-foot-1, 205 lbs
Hamlin enjoyed a productive career at Pitt racking up six interceptions and 21 passes deflected. He…
Hamlin enjoyed a productive career at Pitt racking up six interceptions and 21 passes deflected. He also had a great game in the Senior Bowl showing off his excellent instincts in zone coverage by picking off Jamie Newman. His mediocre athleticism will limit his versatility in man coverage at the next level, but his ball-hawking ability in zone and quality tackling make a nice projection as a split zone safety at the next level.
Aashari Crosswell S, Arizona State: Six-foot, 196 lbs
Over just 2 seasons, Crosswell was able to pick off six passes and deflect 19. He…
Over just 2 seasons, Crosswell was able to pick off six passes and deflect 19. He has tremendous ball skills at the catch point and has a really good understanding of where he needs to be in zone coverage to make a play on the ball. He is a bit sloppy in man coverage but has the potential to develop into a very productive single high safety in the NFL.
Josh Palmer WR, Tennessee: 6-foot-1, 210 lbs
Palmer showed out the entire week at the Senior Bowl. He can line up outside or…
Palmer showed out the entire week at the Senior Bowl. He can line up outside or in the slot, has a tremendous release off press coverage, strong and soft hands, as well as precise route running. He is valued around day three but could easily see success as a WR3 or 4 immediately.