Panthers trade up into first round of NFL draft, select WR Xavier Legette from South Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Panthers gave young quarterback Bryce Young another weapon on Thursday night.

Carolina selected wide receiver Xavier Legette out of South Carolina after trading up one spot in the NFL draft to No 32. Legette was the last of seven wide receivers selected in an offensive-heavy first round.

The 6-foot-1, 221-pound Legette possesses good size and speed and is coming off a highly productive season with 71 catches for 1,255 yards and seven touchdowns for the Gamecocks. He had no more than 18 receptions in a season in his first four years at South Carolina prior to emerging in 2023.

Legette gives the Panthers another option to go along with Diontae Johnson, Adam Thielen and last year’s second-round pick, Jonathan Mingo. There’s a possibility he could also be used on kickoff returns, too.

Panthers general manager Dan Morgan said Legette has the “dog mentality” he covets in players.

“He definitely has that about him,” Morgan said. “He’s a great young man, but you can tell he has that look in his eye. I think he’s not only a special player but a special person. … He’s big, he’s strong, fast and physical. He has a lot of qualities we just loved.”

Morgan said the team began to zero in on Legette after bringing him in for a meeting before the draft. Previously, the team had sent 10 members of the organization to Legette’s workout in Columbia, South Carolina, where Carolina wide receivers coach Rob Moore ran the drills.

Legette mentioned on social media before the draft that he thought the Panthers would take him if he fell to No. 33.

Turns out he was right.

“There was a good vibe there,” Legette said of the meeting.

Panthers coach Dave Canales said he likes the versatility that Legette brings after he was used in a number of roles in college.

“If you look at the versatile way the Gamecocks were able to use him whether it’s out of the backfield, jet sweeps, short crossers, down-the-field posts — there really isn’t much more we can do with receivers,” Canales said. “And he’s done it all.”

Legette was known as a physical receiver in college and plans to bring that to the next level.

“This is a grown man’s game and I feel like I’m a grown man,” Legette said.

This is second time in the past four years the Panthers have selected a South Carolina player in the first round after taking cornerback Jaycee Horn eighth overall in 2021. Horn has been very good when he’s played for the Panthers, but has struggled with injuries.

Legette used to go against Horn daily in practice a few years back.

“He is one of the reasons that I became the player that I am,” Legette said. “He made me better.”

The Panthers didn’t have a first-round pick entering the night. The team traded that pick — which turned out to be the No. 1 overall pick — to the Chicago Bears last year to move up to get Young. The Bears used that pick on quarterback Caleb Williams.

The Panthers traded the 33rd overall pick and one of their fifth-round picks to the Buffalo Bills for the 32nd pick and the Bills’ sixth-round selection.

Carolina now has one pick in each of the remaining six rounds, including the 39th overall selection.



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