The 2023 NFL Combine is upon us, and all 32 teams will be descending upon Indianapolis to get a first-hand look at the next influx of talent to the NFL. With a new head coach in Frank Reich and a need at the quarterback position, which draft prospects should the Carolina Panthers be paying close attention to this week?
Panthers 2023 Draft Prospects To Target at NFL Combine
Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
Carolina has started five different quarterbacks over the past three seasons, and even though they selected Matt Corral one year ago, the position headlines the Panthers draft prospects to target at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Currently slated to pick ninth overall, Carolina may be forced to trade up to snag their signal-caller of choice — especially with the needs of teams ahead of them.
That’s not a situation that General Manager Scott Fitterer is afraid of. As he told reporters earlier this month, “If there’s a guy in this class that you like, you got to go up and go get him. We’re in a position now where we have the defense, we have an offensive line. We built around this for this opportunity. So if you have conviction, go get him.”
While Frank Reich was with the Indianapolis Colts, Will Levis was consistently touted as a quarterback target, and Reich’s transition to the Panthers makes them the ideal landing spot for the Kentucky QB. The staff assembled should help iron out the deficiencies in Levis’ game while maximizing the clear arm talent and gritty, straight-line athleticism he possesses.
Having passed over the all-star game process — a move described as “occupational suicide” by a league insider according to a Jan. 27 report from PFN Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline — Levis should prove to be a particular prospect of emphasis for multiple teams in Indianapolis.
The NFL Combine will be important for Levis from a number of perspectives. Having battled injury in his final season, medical examinations will be important to his evaluation. Given his questionable field vision, the interviews with coaching staffs will help ascertain how much mental development the former Penn State QB requires to succeed at the NFL level.
Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
Oft-described as the “underwear Olympics,” the NFL Combine is the ultimate opportunity for freak athletes to quantify what is apparent on tape. At tight end, there might not be a freakier athlete in the entire 2023 NFL Draft class than former Georgia standout Darnell Washington.
With a need at the position, Washington should headline the Panthers draft prospects to target at the NFL Combine. Listed at 6’7″ and 270 pounds, the Georgia TE’s measurements are the most hotly-anticipated of any prospect making the trip to Indianapolis.
Verified measurements are expected to be buoyed by athletic testing and on-field workouts. Washington can reportedly run a 4.6-second 40-yard dash, which at his size his frankly ludicrous.
During his time with the Bulldogs, Washington’s shown that he also possesses uncommon agility, and the NFL Combine can help solidify his status as a freak athlete in the class.
Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State
Zach Harrison burst onto the national scene as a five-star high school recruit with a freakish athletic profile for a 6’6″, 240-pound DL prospect. Some years later, the NFL Combine will put official measurements to the insane testing numbers that were reported on his arrival at Ohio State.
There was a reported 4.47-second 40-yard dash. Harrison also performed a verified vertical jump of almost 40″. Considering Tariq Woolen led all participants with a 42″ vertical last year in Indianapolis, you get the idea of the level of super-human athlete we’re talking about with the Ohio State defensive end.
As Carolina looks for a running mate across from Brian Burns, the Panthers draft prospects to target at the NFL Combine will almost certainly include an EDGE.
Given the size profile of current start Yetur Gross-Matos, Harrison should be a consideration with his 6’6″, 272-pound frame. The Ohio State DE is explosive and powerful, with his size weaponized by impressive length.
Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
There’s a temptation with the NFL draft to get carried away with trying to find instant impact makers. The success of the Seattle Seahawks in turning a large chunk of the 2022 class into first-year starters is not the norm. Teams, including Carolina, will be looking at this draft with their eye a little ways down the road.
Linebacker may not be considered a premier need for the upcoming season, but a long-term solution at middle LB could be found in this class. That’s why this list of Panthers draft prospects to be aware of at the 2023 NFL Combine contains Iowa’s Jack Campbell.
On tape, Campbell meets a lot of what Carolina has historically looked for at the LB position. He’s well sized, intelligent, and a strong tackler who makes light work of blockers. He can also be impactful in coverage.
The NFL Combine will be an important opportunity for Campbell to lay to rest some oft-raised question marks about his athletic profile. While he can come downhill and hit you in the mouth, and his intelligence allows him to act quickly to make a play, Campbell’s agility and fluidity have been questioned during the process.
Kendre Miller, RB, TCU
While there is a lot of focus on the QB situation for Carolina — and Reich’s background is obviously at the position — the truth of the matter is that his teams have had the most success when they’ve been able to dial up explosive plays in the ground game.
Reich himself expanded on that during his Panthers introductory press conference, telling assembled reporters that “it’s a passing league, but you have to run the ball to be a championship team.” The new Carolina head coach added: “We’ll get the pass game right. But I know we can run the football, and we’re going to run the football.”
Without being unnecessarily unkind, there isn’t a Jonathan Taylor-esque rushing threat in Carolina right now. That’s not to compare Kendre Miller to the former Wisconsin legend, either. Nevertheless, Miller is capable of producing explosion and did so on a regular basis as TCU reached the College Football National Championship this past season.
In fact, explosion runs through Miller’s scouting report. He won’t break any records in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, but at 6’0″ and 220 pounds, that’s okay. He’ll be able to showcase his fast feet and twitchy movements out on Lucas Oil Field and should be a joy to behold in agility drills.
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