Corral’s offensive coordinator at Ole Miss said he understands, but believes the former Rebels star is closer to being ready than analysts gave him credit for.
“I don’t think he’s very far off at all," said Jeff Lebby, now the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma. “If you watch the tape, you watch how he played against the SEC West with a marginal supporting cast, everybody will understand quickly what the guy did and how he put the team on his back.
“It was pretty impressive."
The Panthers thought enough of Corral to trade a 2022 fourth-round draft pick and 2023 third-round pick to move into the third round to select him.
One slip by Darnold and fans will be screaming for Corral, who last season led an Ole Miss team that hadn’t had a winning season since 2015 to a 10-3 record and a trip to the Sugar Bowl.
“He is as an inspiring a young player as I’ve been around," Lebby said.
ESPN draft analyst Jordan Reid said he loves Corral’s quick release and quick feet and the way his “feet marry up with his eyes really well." His only question is how quickly Corral can adjust to an NFL playbook.
“He was in a very run-pass-centric offense at Ole Miss that was very quarterback friendly," Reid said. “So adjusting is going to be his biggest hurdle."
The adjustment begins Friday, as Corral and the rest of Carolina’s draft class, along with undrafted free agents and invited tryout players, begin a three-day rookie camp.
“Matt’s able to adapt," Lebby said. “He had three different coordinators and quarterback coaches while he was [at Ole Miss]. He was able to process and learn at a high level and develop. He can do that at the next level."
Here’s a complete look at Carolina’s projected post-draft depth chart and how the Panthers' six draft picks (italicized) fit in:
Starter: Sam Darnold
Comment: Barring the late addition of a veteran quarterback, Darnold will begin training camp and likely the season as the starter, but he’ll be on a short leash. With pressure on coach Matt Rhule to succeed after two consecutive five-win seasons, there will be little patience with Darnold.
Starter: Christian McCaffrey
Comment: McCaffrey has played in only 10 of a possible 33 games the past two seasons, so keeping him healthy is key. One way to do that is spreading the touches around.
Comment: The only difference from last year is Robby Anderson is now Robbie Anderson, and he has applied to have his jersey number switched from 11 to 3. Otherwise, the talent is there, particularly if Marshall steps up in his second season.
Starter: Ian Thomas
Comment: Look for a lot of two-tight end sets as new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo tries to establish the run and protect whoever is playing quarterback.
Comment: Getting Ekwonu with the sixth overall pick was the key to the draft. His 154 collegiate pancake blocks earned him the nickname "Pancake King" and fits McAdoo’s philosophy perfectly. He just needs to become efficient in pass protection.
Comment: The Panthers see Christensen as a starter, and left guard is the only available spot unless Ekwonu struggles. Corbett, who won a Super Bowl ring with the Los Angeles Rams last season, was a big get in free agency as Fitterer rebuilt the line.
Starter: Bradley Bozeman
Comment: Elflein could challenge here, but the Panthers invested a one-year, $2.8 million deal in Bozeman in free agency. The good news is Eflein and Bozeman can help at guard if needed.
Comment: Carolina picked up Burns’ fifth-year option after he made his first Pro Bowl. What’s needed is for Gross-Matos to stay healthy and pick up the production of 2021 sack leader Haason Reddick, who left in free agency. Frankie Luvu could contribute here as well.
Comment: Adding Ioannidis in free agency was big because he adds a pass-rush threat beside Brown, who has been more of a run-stopper.
Comment: Depth was the only question here, and the Panthers added speed and talent by trading up to get Smith in the fourth round. He posted a 4.52-second 40-yard dash time at the combine. Former Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis Sr. ran it in 4.6 seconds in 2005.
Starter: Damien Wilson
Comment: The question here is what will happen with the assault charges against free-agent signee Wilson? If he somehow is not on the roster, this will get interesting. Littleton, one of the better cover linebackers in the league, could be a factor.
Nickel: Myles Hartsfield
Comment: Outside of running back, this might be the deepest and most talented position. If Carolina can find a way to utilize Barnes’ 4.23-second speed in the 40-yard dash -- second fastest in combine history -- this group really becomes special.
Comment: Keeping Chinn at safety versus moving him to linebacker was a goal. The additions of Woods in free agency and defensive pass game coordinator and secondary coach Steve Wilks, who lobbied for Chinn to stay at safety, make this group solid.
Comment: New special teams coordinator Chris Tabor benefits from the addition of Hekker, a four-time Pro Bowl selection who is coming off a Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams.