The Carolina Panthers unloaded D.J. Moore in the trade up to the number one pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, and now must reload with pass catchers.
The first big shakeup in the 2023 NFL Draft occurred Friday, with the Carolina Panthers trading with the Chicago Bears to secure the top selection in April’s draft. Carolina will get their pick of the quarterbacks in the class, but it came at a steep cost. Two first-round picks (pick 9 and one in 2024), pick 61 in 2023, and a 2025 second-round pick all went to Chicago, as did wide receiver D.J. Moore, who now sits as the WR1 for Justin Fields.
Moore had been the Panthers WR1 since he was drafted back in 2018, and put together three seasons above 1,000 yards. Despite wretched quarterback play, Moore continued to produce as a WR1 in the NFL.
Now, he’s off to Chicago, and something that has plagued Chicago for some time could now happen to the Carolina Panthers. Their room currently consists of Terrace Marshall, Laviska Shenault, Shi Smith, and Preston Williams. Rashard Higgins is a free agent at the moment.
Whoever the pick is at number one for Carolina (the two favorites are C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson), they have to build a better group of pass catchers for the incoming rookie.
The free agent class is particularly good at receiver, but there are options if the Panthers want to explore that route. The big fish is Jakobi Meyers, who would generate quick rapport with someone like Stroud. Juju Smith-Schuster is another chain-moving type who could become the best friend to a rookie, but as of now, it sounds like he might go back to Kansas City. Zach Pascal has played for Frank Reich, and that fit makes sense, but it isn’t a splash they need.
The Carolina Panthers do have picks 39 and 93 in the top 100 of the 2023 NFL Draft to potentially grab a receiver as well. The consensus top four might be off the board (Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Quentin Johnston, Jordan Addison, Zay Flowers), but there are others to consider. Maybe they’d like to add speed with Jalin Hyatt. A.T. Perry and Michael Wilson both provide size and quicks to get open as route runners. Xavier Hutchinson is another quality route runner who has the catch radius to help out a young quarterback.
Receiver isn’t the only avenue for the Carolina Panthers though. Upgrading at tight end could be in the cards. Dalton Schultz is the top free agent name, and while he probably commands $10 million on the open market, Schultz is a quality blocker and a strong receiving option. We know how much Stroud trusted throwing over the middle to tight ends at Ohio State. If he’s indeed the guy, this fit works well.
Otherwise, the 2023 NFL Draft also presents a loaded tight end class. Pick 39 could yield someone like Luke Musgrave, who has elite size and speed for the position as a downfield and catch point threat. Sam LaPorta can get open as a receiver and fight for extra yardage after the catch. Tucker Kraft is a small school guy with impressive receiving chops.
However the Carolina Panthers choose to address adding talent, it is a must. Leaving a young quarterback on an island early in their career could have devastating effects. Finding a couple reliable, standout playmakers for the rookie quarterback is fundamental to their success, and the franchise’s success as a whole.