Carolina Panthers: At One Once Again

At One Once Again: The Panthers Have Traded Up For Their First 1st-Overall Selection Since Cam Newton

Written and Edited by S.J.

7:47 pm. March 10th, 2023

On the evening of March 10th 2023, the Carolina Panthers made a move that will have wide-ranging implications for their draft and their future as a franchise; A move up. Trading star Wide Receiver D.J Moore, the ninth & sixty-first overall picks, plus the next year's first and a 2025 second, they acquired the first overall pick from the Chicago Bears. An outstanding haul for General Manager of the Chicago Bears, Ryan Poles, who was looking to make a big splash and define the early portion of his tenure with the team. Carolina fans will doubtlessly miss D.J, who was a perennial 1,000 yard receiver for the team and only 25 at the time of the trade, but they'll be able to wipe their tears with a Quarterback; And not only a Quarterback, but one the organization views as the best in the draft, having paid a premium to select said player.

Doubtlessly, they already know who the pick is, but we don't; Still, we can theorize as to who it might be, and so we shall. There's been a great deal of rumors swirling around, as is customary with the NFL offseason, and the Panthers have been linked to multiple different players in the class. Their current Quarterbacks coach, Josh Mccown, is known to have raved about the QB for Ohio State University, C.J Stroud, in a film review posted to his personal YouTube channel prior to his hiring-on as the Panthers' new QB guru. There have also been claims that team owner David Tepper has an eye on Will Levis, as reported by Ellis Williams of the Charlotte Observer. General Manager Scott Fitterer has been known to heap praise on Heisman winner Bryce Young, saying the following on "The Clubhouse with Kyle Bailey", a program ran by local radio station WFNZ.

"He does so many things well. He sees the field, he processes quickly, he makes the right decisions and he’s just a really good person on top of it. Really smart, really good person.”

That is without mentioning, of course, rapidly-rising prospect out of Florida Anthony Richardson, who has received a number of comparisons to former Panthers' franchise quarterback Cameron "Cam" Newton, following an enormously-successful performance at the NFL Combine. Each has their own upsides and downsides, with some having more downsides than others.

In order of their success at the collegiate level, we will discuss said pros and cons. Firstly, of course, being the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner, Bryce Young.

Young possesses truly outstanding intangibles. In the pocket, he possesses the poise and calm-ness of a captain under fire in the Pirates of the Carribean, never seeming to get rattled even in the most desperate of situations, which helped the Crimson Tide claw it's way from behind a great number of times. He's been a consistent, elite-level producer for Alabama, even in spite of helming one of the more subpar lineups in recent years for the dominant program. He has a well-honed football IQ, and has unmatched accuracy, throwing with touch and zip enough to hit his recievers anywhere in spite of not having a truly eye-popping arm. He also has a good amount of athleticism, though probably not enough to translate into the NFL as an offensive runner to the same level as, say, Kyler Murray; That leads us into the concerns about him.

Young, simply put, lacks size. Three or four inches taller, and he might be remembered as the best prospect since Luck; But not only is he slight of stature, he is slight of frame, standing at 5'10 and playing at 190 pounds. Many have concerns about Young's ability to maintain his health while sustaining NFL-level hits, which is a credible worry if we are to look at fellow(?) no.1 pick Murray's performances down the stretch. This is not helped by having recently missed time in 2022 due to a shoulder injury. Though he might be limited to hanging back in the pocket and scrambling around to buy time behind the line of scrimmage, if placed in a strong situation he could be a generational, Russell Wilson-caliber player, and well worth a selection at first overall.

Bryce Young, in a loss to the Tennessee Volunteers 52-49, on October 15th, 2022. Despite the loss, Young played quite the game, as he helped dig the Crimson Tide out of an early 28-10 deficit to give them the lead late in the fourth Quarter.

C.J. Stroud, in a home loss to the Michigan Wolverines 45-23, November 26th, 2022. Stroud played his worst game of the season, throwing 2 interceptions and not capitalizing on open running lanes to scramble. 

Next, we have Coleride Bernard "C.J" Stroud. Standing at 6'4 and weighing 220 pounds in spite of a wiry-looking frame, C.J has a NFL-caliber arm & outstanding throwing ability, consistently having sufficient zip and ball placement to put his recievers in the best possible position to make the catch and get yards afterwards anywhere on the field. And, for all the raving about Young's intangibles, Stroud has not shown a lack of them himself; Though previously criticised in that regard, he has shown that in high-leverage situations that he is capable of handling immense pressure, both mental and physical, executing perfectly in a 573-yard comeback victory in the 2021 Rose Bowl, and putting the Buckeyes in a position to defeat the vaunted Georgia Bulldogs in the college football semi-final. His bravery is not limited to the pocket, however, as in an almost Jekyll & Hyde transition from a previously rather timid pocket QB, he showed a willingness - and ability - to escape certain sacks and charge downfield, hurling himself into defenders for extra yardage when the game is on the line, such as during the College Football semi-final game. There's alot to like about Stroud, and yet reasons to doubt him; Though he showed a willingness to use his athleticism to create plays as a runner, it only seems to manifest rather recently, in the most important games. Is that same trigger-pulling ability going to be around in the regular season? And will his transition to the NFL be entirely seamless? One of his most major criticisms is that he played in a very friendly scheme, and usually did not experience much adversity, thanks to an outstanding offensive line and elite recieving corps. With D.J Moore having been shipped off in a trade that might yet beget him, will C.J be able to connect reliably with a diminished recieving corps? If one is confident in his ability to do so, he could be an outstanding long-term NFL starter.

Third, we have Anthony "AR-15" Richardson, a recent combine supernova. Possessing similar athleticism to his idol, former Panthers' quarterback Cameron Newton, it can be hard to get across in writing just how high his ceiling really is. Running a 4.43 at 6'4 244, the rocket attached to his arm has afterburners on it, with Richardson being able to project the ball anywhere he wills, with a quick release, tight spiral, and solid placement when he can get the ball on his man. He also has more than speed; His imposing build is not just for show, as he runs with exceptional power and throw off even linebackers' tackle attempts. He also has an underrated mind; He is more than adequate at reading the field and understands coverage well enough, with bad decisions being unusual for him. That being said, while there is a lot to love with him, there's also things to hate. Simply put, he is not prepared to play NFL football year-one. His internal processor is a little too slow, his pre-snap recognition skills are subpar, and his accuracy is very, very poor, consistently missing open receivers on tape, largely as a consequence of inconsistent mechanics and a tendency to fade back in the pocket rather than step up and deliver. If drafted at no.1 overall, he will require a bridge quarterback; Fortunately, Carolina cleared a considerable amount of cap space recently, and should be able to afford one of the premier players in free agency, such as a Jacoby Brissett. If he can ride the bench and develop into even a fraction of what he could be, the Panthers could be looking at a reincarnation of their beloved Cam.

Anthony Richardson, in a home loss to the Louisiana State University Tigers 45-35, on October 15th, 2022. Richardson would not have a bad performance in the shootout, throwing no interceptions. Despite the clean game, he would throw for under 200 yards and just one touchdown.

Will Levis, in a 21-17 home victory over the Mizzouri Tigers on November 5th, 2022. Levis would throw a trio of touchdowns in the victory. 

Fourth and finally, there is Will Levis, quarterback for the University of Kentucky. Fresh off a victory in the citrus bowl against a formidable Iowa defense, Levis has been a starter for the Wildcats for the past two years, and popped eyes on tape. Posessing a stout build at 6'4 230, he has plus athleticism and real power in short yardage, not unlike Bills' quarterback Josh Allen, which makes him dangerous in the redzone. He also has good accuracy and a legitimately elite arm, being capable to missile-launch the football any length of the field that he needs to. Combine that with fairly consistent accuracy, good footwork, and immense confidence in his ability, he can and will make any throw. At the same time, he also will make any throw, failing to appropriately read defensive coverages which can and did result in some inexplicable-looking choices on tape. He also does not read blitzes well, is inconsistent in his progressions, and overall lacks the instincts you'd want in a quarterback, which makes the idea of him starting year one decidedly unpalatable and invites some probably unfair comparisons to another Carolina Panthers quarterback; That being Sam Darnold. Still, if he can develop a true mind for football, improve his mechanics, and really iron out all his rough edges, he could end up being a quality NFL starter long-term.