Bryce Young

Carolina Panthers: Possible WRs to Target in 2024

Finishing dead last in the NFL was surely not what the Panthers’ front office had in mind when they gave up a fortune to draft Bryce Young in the 2023 NFL Draft. They gave up D.J. Moore, a first and second-round pick in 2023, a first-round pick in 2024, and a second-round pick in 2025. Unsurprisingly, this disaster of a season resulted in the firing of HC Frank Reich and GM Scott Fitterer. Now, newly hired HC Dave Canales looks to try and turn this ship around and bring some hope back to Panthers’ fans and North Carolina Sportsbooks.

There’s a New Sheriff in Town

I like the hire made by David Tepper. Dave Canales was most recently the offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Bucs, where he helped to revive Baker Mayfield‘s career. Before that, he was the QB coach for the Seahawks during Russell Wilson‘s prime years and then brought Geno Smith back from the dead in 2022, making him look like an elite quarterback talent. I think Canales is exceptionally bright, and if anyone can put Bryce Young on the right track, it’s him. 

One thing Canales and the front office must address this offseason is the wide receiver room. There’s no denying Young was put into a situation where he had no chance to succeed. This 2023 WR corps consisted of Adam Thielen, DJ Chark, Jonathan Mingo, Terrace Marshall, and Laviska Shenault. I couldn’t put together a less inspiring group of guys if I tried. The Panthers were 30th in the NFL in PFF receiving grade, confirming the talent simply isn’t there. (They were also 27th in PFF pass block grade, so they may want to consider getting some protection for their potential franchise quarterback.) 

The guys from this list currently under contract and likely to return for 2024 include Adam Thielen, Jonathan Mingo, and Laviska Shenault. They also have TEs Hayden Hurst and Tommy Tremble for next season. If Carolina hopes to be even remotely competitive in 2024, they must bring in a dominant Alpha WR1 that Bryce Young can rely on.

Panthers have an estimated cap space of about $30M, according to Spotrac, which is above the league average. Depending on player designations and contract restructuring, they can increase that number significantly this offseason. 

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Possible Veteran Signing?

Carolina could sign a veteran wide receiver to make Bryce Young’s life easier. One name that has been floating around the past month is Tee Higgins. The Bengals recently declared their intent to use the Franchise Tag on Tee, but he is an unrestricted free agent heading into 2024 and will be looking to secure a big bag. Higgins has been the WR2 in Cincinnati the past three seasons, but many believe he has the talent to succeed as that WR1 elsewhere. Tee had an injury-ridden Year 4, resulting in the Dynasty community cooling on him a bit. But we have to remember, this young man just turned 25 last month. He’s just now entering his prime.

DraftKings odds have Higgins odds to remain a Bengal at -500. The Panthers have the third-best odds at +1400. So, they’re not out of the running, but Vegas is telling us Higgins will likely be wearing black and orange again next season. 

Another veteran who is entering free agency this offseason is Mike Evans. This would not be as significant an investment for Carolina, as Evans is at the tail-end of his career and entering his age-31 season. Evans played under Canales last season, posting his tenth consecutive thousand-yard receiving season and finishing as the WR7 overall in PPR formats. The move does make some sense, and Evans would be a tremendous mentor for Bryce. 

DraftKings has Carolina with the sixth-best odds to land Evans at + 1600. He is most likely to return to Tampa at -165 odds, followed by Chicago at + 650. Like Higgins, it’s a long shot, but not out of the question. 

And with the 33rd pick, the Carolina Panthers select…

We already know that the 1st overall pick is long gone; the Chicago Bears obtained that pick in their fleecing of Carolina last year. But Carolina does have the first pick of the second round, and this 2024 WR class appears to be a deep one. Let’s take a look at some potential WR targets that may still be on the board when Carolina is on the clock. These numbers will be based on NFL Mock Draft Database

Ladd McConkey

McConkey never posted gaudy numbers at Georgia, but he showed out at the Senior Bowl and has been shooting up draft boards recently. I’ve even heard some discussions of McConkey being a Top 5 wide receiver in this draft class. He is currently projected to go to the Panthers at pick 33, according to NFL Mock Draft Database. He’s a quick-twitch player who knows how to create separation at any level of the field. This is something Bryce desperately needs in this offense. Below is a chart from Football Insights covering Weeks 1-10 this season. This suggests Young throws a highly accurate ball; his receivers just don’t get open. 

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Keon Coleman

Coleman is listed at pick 32 on the consensus mock board, going to the Chiefs. Like McConkey, Coleman didn’t post monster numbers in college, but unlike McConkey, Coleman is built like Superman. He’s listed at 6’4″ and 215 lbs, and he looked even bigger watching him on Saturdays. While Coleman is a freak athlete, McConkey was the more efficient receiver in college. DFF’s Chris Museezer recently wrote an article comparing some sticky advanced metrics between the two (you can check that article out here) and concluded that Ladd has better odds of being a hit in fantasy football than Coleman. Keon has a lot of raw talent, but I don’t love the fit in Carolina. It feels like they could just be drafting another Jonathan Mingo. While both McConkey and Coleman had similar aDOTs (12.4 for Keon and 12.2 for Ladd), and Coleman worked more out of the slot in 2023, I see McConkey as more likely to run those short to intermediate routes in the NFL, which is where Bryce is most accurate. 

Adonai Mitchell

Slotted in at pick 30 to the Ravens is Adonai Mitchell. The junior from Texas put up some respectable numbers in 2023 despite playing alongside Xavier Worthy. The target share numbers were nothing to write home about, but Mitchell proved he is a true deep threat with his 16.0 ADoT and 15.4 YPR. Like Coleman, I think Mitchell is a talented prospect, but I fear he has more real-life value than fantasy value. He seems to be more of a field stretcher than anything else. I don’t know that he can elevate Bryce Young’s game in the way that McConkey has the potential to. 

These three guys are currently projected right around that 33rd pick of the draft. For fantasy and real-life purposes, I would prefer McConkey in Carolina over Mitchell or Coleman. A couple other names that may be available at this pick would be Troy Franklin and Roman Wilson. The Panthers should have several options at the 2.01, and I expect them to use it to secure an elite pass-catcher. They have one other Day 2 pick and four Day 3 picks, which they need to use to draft some protection for Bryce and fill out this depleted WR room. 

Hold onto Bryce Young in your dynasty leagues and wait to see how this offseason plays out. If the Panthers upgrade their protection and add that Alpha wide receiver to their roster, Young could turn into a strong buy. And with Canales calling the shots, Young is in competent hands. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and I hope you got some valuable information you can use for your fantasy team! If you’d like additional insight into Dynasty Football news and analysis, please follow me on Twitter at @jim_DFF. Until next time, keep grinding out there, DFF family! #DFFArmy #AlwaysBeBuilding