We’re counting down the days until the Panthers kick off the 2021 season.
We’re only 20 days away from the start of the Panthers’ 2021 season, so that means today’s countdown piece is dedicated to No. 20 on the Panthers’ roster — running back Rodney Smith.
Smith was among the host of 2020 undrafted rookies who ended up contributing last season. He had a stellar college career at Minnesota with 4,125 rushing yards, 521 receiving yards, and 29 touchdowns. He left college as the Gophers’ all-time leader in scrimmage yards.
At 25 he’s older than most players entering their second NFL season. His college career ultimately spanned six years from 2014 to 2019 which included one redshirt season and a sixth-year waiver the NCAA granted him after tearing his ACL in 2018.
He made the most of the opportunities he was given during his 2020 rookie campaign. With Christian McCaffrey spending most of the season on the sidelines, additional snaps became available for reserves. Smith spent time on the practice squad before being promoted to the 53-man roster in Week 10.
He saw action in each of the Panthers final seven games and ran the ball 41 times for 156 yards (3.8 YPC) with one touchdown. He also hauled in nine receptions for 59 yards. Pro Football Focus loved what they saw in Smith (though it was limited action) and gave him a solid 70.1 grade.
After a fairly promising rookie season, Rodney will battle for backup running back duties to a healthy Christian McCaffrey. Smith was listed as the fourth-strong running back on the Panthers unofficial depth chart behind CMC, Reggie Bonnafon, and rookie Chuba Hubbard.
While he might not be an impact player, Rodney Smith will likely stick around Charlotte in 2021 as a depth option at a position that puts players through the meat grinder.
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