Panthers need upgraded WR depth chart: What GM Dan Morgan said about 2024 draft class

Dan Morgan wants to upgrade the receiving options around second-year quarterback Bryce Young as the linebacker-turned-general manager looks to put his stamp on his first offseason in charge of the Carolina Panthers.

Last season, Young was surrounded by an underwhelming and inconsistent crew at the playmaking positions. While veteran wide receiver Adam Thielen eclipsed 100 catches and 1,000 yards last season, the 33-year-old pass-catcher was basically Young’s only consistent target during his rookie year.

And while pass protection could have been a lot better — Young was sacked 62 times in his first NFL campaign — the shortcomings of his playmakers greatly impacted the passing production on Sundays.

“We need some more playmakers,” Morgan said Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. “Obviously, we have Adam Thielen, (2023 second-round pick Jonathan Mingo), but we gotta add some more receivers, some more depth and competition in that room right now. And, you know, we just gotta get guys who can make plays. That’s really what we’re (honing in on) in the draft or in free agency.”

Former Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, back to camera, greets then-assistant general manager Dan Morgan, right, along the team’s sideline at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC on Sunday, January 7, 2024. On Monday, January 8, 2024, team general manager Scott Fitterer was fired after three seasons following the team’s 9-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. JEFF SINER/

The Panthers will have some premium veteran options in free agency. While the Cincinnati Bengals have already franchise tagged Tee Higgins, other playmakers like Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gabe Davis of the Buffalo Bills and Michael Pittman of the Indianapolis Colts could hit the open market in March.

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The Panthers are projected to have $34.6 million in cap space, according to Over The Cap. They have several avenues to create more space, but they also need to weigh long-term contracts for the likes of pass rusher Brian Burns, defensive tackle Derrick Brown and linebacker Frankie Luvu. So, while Morgan would like to infuse the lineup with proven talent, he might need to double down on the position with additions in both free agency and the draft.

Luckily, for the Panthers, Morgan — a longtime talent evaluator — believes the position group is deep.

“I think wide receiver-wise, I think it is a strength,” Morgan said. “I think it’s pretty obvious, it’s not a secret that we need to add more playmakers in that room.”

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The Panthers will be without a first-round pick after trading away their top selection to move up to select Young last year. But with the wide receiver group being a strength, the Panthers should have an opportunity to land a quality playmaker on Day 2.

NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah has Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., Washington’s Rome Odunze and LSU’s Malik Nabers at the top of his wide receiver board. But the former Eagles and Ravens scout has 12 wide receivers — a rather large grouping — in his top-50 draft list.

Day 2 draft options at the position could include Florida State’s Keon Coleman, Oregon’s Troy Franklin, Georgia’s Ladd McConkey, and Western Kentucky’s Malachi Corley.