For much of the draft process, Panthers’ fans have remained in constant discussion surrounding the front office’s decision to move up for the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. This decision immediately signaled that the new coaching regime led by Frank Reich was serious about the direction of this franchise moving forward, and intended on selecting a QB. Ever since then, the coaching staff along with third-year GM Scott Fitterer have been on the hunt for a franchise QB to select at the top of the draft. A new face of the franchise. A competitor and playmaker. Ultimately, he must be someone they believe can bring a Lombardi trophy to the Carolinas.
The consensus among most draft analysts over the past year is that there are four quarterbacks that have the chance to be selected by the Panthers. Let’s break down each candidate below.
Alabama QB Bryce Young
In September of 2019, the world was buzzing with the news that 5 star prospect Bryce Young had decommitted from USC and signed to play for coach Nick Saban at Alabama. Young has always been viewed as someone worthy of the top spot ever since his college days, and this year is no different.
His production speaks for itself. Amassing 8000 yards and 80 TDs through the air, the talented signal-caller certainly doesn’t lack for experience over his three collegiate seasons.
The former Cali guy grew up with a psychologist as a father, so it’s no surprise that Bryce is such a calm and composed leader. His football acumen is off the charts and he excelled in interviews.
The only potential flaw is his size and stature. Most NFL QBs nowadays at least meet the 6’0” standard and far surpass it but Young stands at a towering 5’10” 204 pounds. All jokes aside, for some draft analysts and front offices, his small frame could leave him vulnerable against some of the most athletic big men in the league and signal an injury-plagued career at the next level. This is something the Panthers will have to weigh when making the decision.
Ohio State QB CJ Stroud
The pure pocket passer is more than worthy of the #1 overall selection. Most fans may have been enamored by the full court press that the Panthers brought to the young quarterback’s pro day, but it is more than that that should have fans chomping at the bit to select Stroud.
Over the past two years, Stroud has led the Buckeyes to two NCAAF semifinal appearances, recording over 8000 yards and 85 touchdowns. His signature game was his last, dueling it out the stout Georgia front; His stats are as followed: 23/34 for 348 yards (67.6%) and 4 TDs.
The only questions surrounding this young talent is how the Ohio State offense may be an increasingly QB-friendly scheme that could mask some of his deficiencies that will surely be discovered at the next level. Not to mention, he didn’t struggle with talent at his disposal. During this time at Ohio State, the WR room consisted of Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Marvin Harrison, all of which were or are projected to be first round picks. It’s worth considering how Stroud might perform if the talent isn’t there.
"I've always been ruled out and kind of doubted...For me, it's always been about not really proving them wrong but proving to myself what I can accomplish."
- Bryce Young, Heisman acceptance speech
Kentucky QB Will Levis
Known for his cannon of an arm, there is no one questioning his arm strength as it projects to the next level. At his pro day, he showed off his arm, sending one football into the ceiling, albeit unplanned. All in all, the Kentucky product elevated those around him in 2021, throwing 233/353 for 2826 yards, including 24 TDs and 13 interceptions through the air and 9 TDs on the ground.
Levis does have a few interesting food takes that will leave some fans ready to vomit including mayo in his coffee and eating bananas with the peel. Other red flags with the QB prospect is his age, 25, compared to the rest of his draftmates. Considering the need for Levis to develop for a year or so before taking the reins of an NFL offense, it might leave teams uneasy when drafting a player that may not reach his full potential until he’s 27.
Florida QB Anthony Richardson
Likely one of the most tantalizingly physical specimens at the QB position, Richardson has left many teams salivating over his potential. His rocket arm paired with a 6’4” 230 lbs frame and his “wheels” seems to line up well with other “project” QBs drafted in the first round. Some names include Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Josh Allen, all of which were able to live up to their potential due to great coaching staffs around them.
Reich and the Panthers' vaunted staff would be more than capable of developing an elite athlete like Anthony Richardson but it all boils down to film and whether the front office believes in him. It’s worth noting that the former Gator only started 13 games in college so his sample size is relatively small compared to the other 3 in the running.
Considering the Panthers traded away multiple first-round picks, as well as star receiver DJ Moore, the coaching staff might believe that someone like Bryce Young who is a little more pro-ready could be in the best interest of the team right now, a team that is poised to push for the playoffs.
Today is Draft Day, and we will eventually figure out who the apple of the Panthers’ eye is. Is it Bryce Young? CJ Stroud? Levis? Richardson? The world will know around 8 PM EST tonight on ESPN and NFL Network. Tune in and leave any comments below.
If you're on the road and don't have access to streaming services, I highly recommend checking out WFNZ Radio's Draft Night Analysis. They have a group of extremely passionate radio hosts and fellow Panthers fans that will bring excitement for you through the speakers. Click the photo below to listen: