CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers gave new quarterback Bryce Young some help on Friday night, selecting Mississippi wide receiver Jonathan Mingo with the 39th overall pick in the NFL draft.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Mingo caught 112 passes for 1,758 yards with 12 touchdowns during his career for the Rebels. While Mingo is a big receiver, he also has solid speed, having been clocked at 4.46 seconds in the 40.
Mingo said he’s looking forward to being teammates with Young after losing to Alabama the last three seasons in the Southeastern Conference, twice when Young was the starter.
Mingo thinks he can be a huge asset for the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner, whom he called a “game changer.”
“I can do everything for him,” Mingo said. “For a rookie quarterback you want to get them into the flow of the game. I can turn a 5-yard hitch into an 80-yard gain.”
Mingo’s best season came last year when he caught 51 passes for 861 yards and five touchdowns after he bounced back from a broken foot in 2021. He has big-play potential, recording a school-record 247 yards receiving last season against Vanderbilt.
Panthers coach Frank Reich said he likes that Mingo can play multiple positions and believes he will be a great target for Young.
“When a guy has elite ball skills and you have a super accurate passer like we do, that’s just a really good combination,” Reich said. “Just get it near him and he’s got strong hands to the ball.”
The Panthers are looking to upgrade an offense that was 29th in the league in passing last year and traded away top wide receiver D.J. Moore to the Chicago Bears as part of a deal that allowed them to move up to the top spot in the NFL draft.
Carolina previously added Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark in free agency to join holdovers Terrace Marshall Jr. and Laviska Shenault.
The Panthers moved to the defensive side of the ball in the third round when they traded up 13 spots to No. 80 to get outside linebacker DJ Johnson from Oregon, who is viewed as a pass rusher who should fit well as they transition to a 3-4 defensive scheme.
The 6-foot-4, 270-pound Johnson had 39 tackles and six sacks last season for the Ducks. He played tight end for the Ducks in 2021.
Johnson made news last season when he threw a punch at an Oregon State fan following a loss to the Ducks’ archrival. Johnson said the issue was handled internally and said he has learned from the experience.
“You learn how to keep your composure no matter what the situation,” Johnson said.
Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer said the team’s scouts vetted Johnson, adding that “we think he has grown. There was remorse.”
The decision to take Mingo came one day after the Panthers selected Young with the No. 1 overall pick.
The team welcomed Young and his family to Charlotte on Friday with a pep rally outside of Bank of America Stadium’s front gate. Young walked through a line shaking hands with fans as hip-hop music blared, and he banged the team’s “Keep Pounding” drum at the end of the procession, signaling the start of a new era in Carolina.
Young called it “surreal.”
“This is an opportunity that I don’t take lightly and I don’t take for granted,” Young said. “It’s a huge blessing. I’m super excited to get to work and I’m grateful for my parents and everyone who made this possible for me. I couldn’t be more ecstatic to be a Carolina Panther.”
Discussions over Young’s size dominated the pre-draft talk about the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner. At 5-foot-10 and 204 pounds, Young is only the third quarterback shorter than 6 feet tall to be selected in the first round since the NFL-AFL merger was completed in1970, joining Kyler Murray and Johnny Manziel.
But his father Craig Young said Friday he’s always felt that is a “lazy” narrative.
“I always felt like we should be more focused on his production,” Craig Young said of his son, who threw for 80 touchdowns and 12 interceptions during his college career at Alabama. “I think that is why as a family we wanted to be with an organization that people believed in him for who he was.”