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Carolina Panthers Rookie Progress Report: Week 13

In this segment we’ve taken a look at the progress and projections of each of the Panthers 2018 draft picks. At the end of the season we’ll revisit this report one last time and see just how each rookie stacks up against their pace from the first two thirds of their first season. Let’s take a look at how the numbers following another devastating loss in Tampa stack up against our Week 6 projections:

D.J. Moore, WR (Round 1, Pick 24, No. 24 overall)

Full season pace through six games


35 receptions on 48 targets (73% catch rate)
509 yards
3 touchdowns


123 yards on 11 attempts

Week six breakdown: Although D.J. isn’t quite ready to be a stark contributor yet, he has the tools to be an absolute superstar in this league. I stoutly believe that D.J. will surpass his current season pace as he continues to ramp up his responsibility under Norv Turner.

Week six outlook: Ice Up, Son 2: Rivera’s Revenge

Full season pace through 12 games


56 receptions on 75 targets (75% catch rate)
812 yards
3 touchdowns


200 yards on 15 attempts

Week 13 breakdown: Since Week 7, D.J. Moore has found his groove in this offense. He and Cam Newton have been able to develop solid chemistry as his responsibilities continue to increase on a week-to-week basis. D.J. provides this offense with something it hasn’t had since the days of Agent 89: the ability to gain yards after the catch. To put in perspective how much D.J.’s production has improved since my last report, his season’s receiving yards projection has increased by 60%. Not many players in the NFL have come on quite as strongly as Moore has in such a short amount of time, and it looks like he is only going to get better from here.

Week 13 outlook: With Devin Funchess’ impending departure via free agency, D.J. Moore should be the Panthers No. 1 receiver in 2019… if he isn’t already.

Donte Jackson, CB (Round 2, Pick 23, No. 55 overall)

Full season pace through six games

8 interceptions
3 forced fumbles
75 tackles
13 passes defensed

Week six breakdown: This kid can be special. Really special. He makes this defense significantly more fun to watch, although the comparisons to Josh Norman are unreasonable. Josh wasn’t this impressive in his rookie year.

Week six outlook: Dave Gettleman won’t be able to rescind his franchise tag, so we’ve got that going for us.

Full season pace through 12 games

5 Interceptions
1 forced fumble
65 tackles
9 passes defensed

Week 13 breakdown: Similar to the defense as a unit, Jackson has seen a drop-off from his hot start to the season. Jackson has experienced some growing pains through Eric Washington’s soft zone scheme and the complete lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks from the Panthers front seven. Regardless, he has the tools to be a great player in this league.

Even on a play like this (which shouldn’t have been flagged, but don’t get me started), Jackson shows he can mask fundamental/technical shortcomings with incredible makeup speed. A leg injury against Seattle sidelined Jackson, and arguably lost Carolina the game. With Rivera taking the reins of the secondary for the remainder of the season, I believe we can see major improvement from this group with Jackson at the forefront.

Week 13 outlook: The inevitable rookie wall and injuries have slowed down his projections, but Jackson can still finish strong and look to build on a fantastic rookie season.

Rashaan Gaulden, S (Round 3, Pick 21, No. 85 overall)

Full season pace through six games

19 tackles, 3 TFL

Week six breakdown: The intention of the coaching staff is to develop Gaulden into a “big nickel” corner to specialize in shadowing the freakishly athletic tight ends that we’ve seen popping up all over the league. Gaulden hasn’t played much this season, especially after the addition of Eric Reid, but I can’t say I’ve seen him make any major mistakes either.

Week six outlook: Someone is going to have to lock down Travis Kelce in the Superb Owl.

Full season pace through 12 games

19 tackles, 3 TFL

Week 13 breakdown: Gaulden has kept exact same pace and honestly, there’s not much to say here. He seems to be a decent depth piece behind two veteran safeties.

Week 13 outlook: Rashaan could potentially see more time at nickel if Rivera looks to shake up coverage schemes and personnel, but I’d expect more of an impact to come next season. I no longer think a Superb Owl is in the cards this year.

Ian Thomas, TE (Round 4, Pick 1, No. 101 overall)

Full season pace through six games

27 receptions (43 targets)
192 yards

Week six breakdown: This pick was all about upside, and similarly to his career at Indiana, Thomas has shown flashes but has yet to fully contribute. Thomas has made a number of mistakes at crucial moments, including a dropped touchdown against Atlanta and two quit routes that led to Cam Newton interceptions against Cincinnati. The kid is a work in progress but the ceiling is high. Let’s just hope Jason Witten can rebound in the Monday Night Football booth so ESPN doesn’t have to give Greg Olsen a call this offseason.

Week six outlook: Somewhere between Brandon “Swole Bones” Williams and Antonio Gates.

Full season pace through 12 games

21 Receptions (29 targets)
177 yards

Week 13 breakdown: Thomas’ numbers tapered off after the return of Greg Olsen, but should steadily increase now that Greg is out for the year. Ian looked good in replacement of Olsen in Tampa (5 catches, 46 yards) and may be more ready to embrace a bigger role at this point in the season.

Week 13 outlook: The future is here and we will see how bright it is. Jason Witten hasn’t done us any favors.

Marquis Haynes, DE (Round 4, Pick 36, No. 136 overall)

3 games active

Week six breakdown: Haynes has been inactive for most of the season, and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. While Haynes may be solid depth at the moment, if Hurney were to pull the trigger and trade for a pass rusher to boost this defense, Marquis could be on the chopping block.

Week six outlook: Depth third down pass rusher, but probably better off as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Week 13 breakdown: Haynes has been activated for two games since Week Seven and has not produced much (one tackle). He’s used mostly in pass rushing situations and has yet to produce any kind of pressure.

Week 13 outlook: Continues to be a project pass rusher who may struggle to maintain a roster spot in next year’s training camp, especially when additions are made to the defensive line.

Jermaine Carter, LB (Round 5, Pick 24, No. 161 overall)

12 games active, 5 tackles

Week six breakdown: After a flashy preseason, Carter was able to achieve a spot on the roster and has had a substantial impact on special teams. The former Terrapin has also gotten a few snaps at outside linebacker, where he’s gotten to learn under some of the best in the business.

Week six outlook: Solid depth at a position that could look at lot weaker after the Mayor of Charlotte chooses to get into politics.

Week 13 breakdown: Carter has gotten a game jersey every week this season and this doesn’t look to change. He has been a solid special teams player and will continue to provide valuable depth at a position that could thin out during this off season.

Week 13 outlook: Heir to Colin Jones as special teams captain.

Andre Smith, LB (Round 7, Pick 16, No. 234 overall)

1 game active

Week six breakdown: Thus far we haven’t seen much of Andre, especially since he is currently dealing with a hamstring injury. Look for him to potentially step in and make an impact on special teams sooner than later, especially considering linebacker Jared Norris was recently placed on IR.

Week six outlook: Low risk, high reward potential special teams ace

Week 13 breakdown: Hasn’t been active since Week 5.

Week 13 outlook: Camp body.

Kendrick Norton, DT (Round 7, Pick 24, No. 242 overall)

0 games active, practice squad, 0 GMs Fired

Week six breakdown: Norton hasn’t had much impact on this Panthers team. He was delegated to the practice squad after an underwhelming training camp.

Week six outlook: Practice body with some fire in his belly.

Week 13 breakdown: Norton has been released and signed back to the practice squad on numerous occasions. Unfortunately, all 32 GMs have retained their jobs since Kendrick was drafted.

Week 13 outlook: Practice squad lifer.

Production has correlated strongly with draft position for each of these guys, which is nothing to complain about. Marty Hurney has a proven track record with high draft picks, it’s the diamonds in the rough (or even solid depth) in late rounds that he seems to have trouble finding. This draft has already been wildly successful in my opinion. Picking wide receiver in the first round doesn’t always pan out the way it has for DJ Moore, especially over the past few seasons. To see him begin to put it together, being nowhere near as polished as some of his drafted counterparts, has been exciting and comforting. Donte Jackson has a long way to go, but his potential as a mainstay on this defense gives the Panthers a lot of wiggle room in future roster building situations.

As the Panthers enter the final quarter of what has been the strangest season in their existence, look for these guys to take a major step forward. We are getting to the point of the year where the members of this draft class “aren’t rookies anymore”, and will be leaned on to help make a miraculous playoff push.

My advice would be to sit back and enjoy the rest of the season, regardless of outcome. We may never see some of our favorite Panthers players suit up in the black and electric blue again. Things change quickly in this league, and with Tepper at the helm this is only the beginning of a new era in Carolina. Keep Pounding, everyone… even if it needs to be whiskey every Sunday night through February.


Which rookie’s jersey would you feel comfortable purchasing in the long term?

  • 72%

    D.J. Moore

    (318 votes)

  • 14%

    Donte Jackson

    (63 votes)

  • 0%

    Ian Thomas

    (3 votes)

  • 12%

    I don’t wear jerseys because I’m an adult

    (53 votes)

437 votes total

Vote Now

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