It’s already expected that former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson will be the Day 1 starter for the New York Jets when the 2021 NFL season kicks off in September.
Will Wilson’s BYU teammate, offensive tackle Brady Christensen, a third-round pick by the Carolina Panthers, also be a starter early in his NFL career?
CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso makes the case for Christensen in his list predicting 10 instant impact rookies, coming in at No. 6.
“Have to get one offensive linemen in here, and I didn’t want it to be a first-round pick. Too obvious,” Trapasso wrote. “Quietly, Christensen is the likely Week 1 starter for the Panthers at left tackle, protecting Sam Darnold. Sure, he’ll battle it out with 2019 second-round pick Greg Little, but the former Ole Miss star hasn’t come close to meeting expectations early in his NFL career and has no connections to the current Carolina staff.”
Wilson’s and Christensen’s teams will play each other during Week 1 of the 2021 season, Sept. 12 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
Christensen, who was the 70th overall pick in the draft, is the lowest draft pick to show up on Trapasso’s list, which includes four first-rounders and no quarterbacks, including Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft behind former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (to Jacksonville).
The CBS Sports writer likes what Christensen’s film shows.
“Christensen’s BYU film was pretty darn clean. And it should have been for a 24-year-old blocker with 38 games on his college resume. He moves well for his size and was a quality battler in pass protection with high-end balance,” Trapasso wrote.
The Panthers are hosting their rookie minicamp, which began Friday and runs through Sunday. Carolina then will hold several offseason organized team activity workouts running May 24 through June 10, followed by mandatory camp June 15-17.
There is another Wilson tie on the list: Jets second-round pick wide receiver Elijah Moore comes in at No. 9.
“Moore exemplifies what it means to be a high-floor prospect. He produced early in his college career at Ole Miss, steadily improved his production each season in Oxford and tested extremely well at his pro day,” Trapasso wrote.
“Outside of his smaller frame — which actually fits quite well into the slot — there’s not a noticeable flaw in Moore’s game.”
Panthers testing out Christensen’s versatility
Carolina has plans to move Christensen around during the offseason to see how he performs at different positions on the line.
“When we drafted him, we thought he was a guy who could play tackle, but could also be an elite guard,” Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said, per the team’s website. “Whether he can snap or not or has the ability to make those calls, that’s what these camps are for. But we saw him as a guy that had four-position flexibility. So we move him around a little now just to get him some exposure.”
Christensen said he’s up for the challenge to show just how versatile he can be for the Panthers.
“Obviously, there’s a ton of carryover position-to-position as an offensive lineman,” Christensen said, per the team’s website. “It’s different at each position, but you’ve got to have great feet whether you’re playing guard or tackle. You’ve got to be able to run off the ball; that’s a big thing we’re focusing on right now is just run off the ball and be really physical.
“You need that at all five spots. And I feel like I can do that, whether that’s right tackle or left guard, I can do those things.”
Following the conclusion of Carolina’s rookie minicamp, the Panthers will hold several sessions of organized team activity (OTA) offseason workouts for two and a half weeks, starting May 24. The team will hold a mandatory minicamp June 15-17.