The Carolina Panthers shocked the NFL world and took control of the 2023 NFL Draft in a massive recent trade with the Chicago Bears. While fans were certainly sad to see D.J. Moore go, there is no questioning the new sense of optimism around the Panthers now that they have the first overall pick in the draft. It is looking likely that the Panthers will be able to move forward from this offseason with the first franchise quarterback the team has had since the days of prime Cam Newton.
While speculators flock to sports betting sites to wager on which player the Panthers will select this year, there are some things to know about the Panthers’ likely strategy. Carolina will base their pick around both need and fit, selecting players that are the right match for the organization. Let’s look at six players that are excellent fits for the Panthers, whether with their first overall pick or one of the subsequent ones.
C.J. Stroud is who most oddsmakers have pegged to become the next quarterback of the Panthers, and it is easy to see what makes him the likely option. New head coach Frank Reich has worked with quarterbacks like Matt Ryan, Nick Foles, and Carson Wentz, all tall, statuesque passers who do their best work from the pocket. This is what Stroud brings. He is a prototypical pocket passer with excellent accuracy who looks likely to be a surefire solid NFL QB. While he may not perform well off-platform, it is hard to argue with his Ohio State stats of 85 touchdowns to 12 interceptions in two seasons.
While Stroud is the most popular pick for the Panthers, Bryce Young is a close second. There have been rumors that some high up in the organization prefer Young. There is a lot to like about Young. He was dominant both years at Alabama, winning the 2021 Heisman. He is amazing outside the pocket, can make plays with his arms and legs, is highly accurate, and is a creative improviser. The one knock on Young is his stature. He is 5’10 and just over 200 pounds, not your typical Q.B. size. But the Panthers could roll the dice on his skills translating.
If you want to bet on upside, no player in this draft has more than Richardson. Fans would swear they see Cam Newton if Richardson steps onto the field for the team. Richardson is a one-of-a-kind athlete, blowing up the combine with some shocking numbers, including legit 4.4 speed and a 40’ vertical at 6’4 and 235 pounds. Richardson did not light the college football world on fire at Florida and struggles with accuracy; however, the Panthers brain trust might make the gamble that coach Reich’s track record of getting the most out of his quarterbacks can carry over to Richardson.
It is highly likely the Panthers will go quarterback with their first pick. They could then look to get a weapon with their second pick at 39 in the second round. If he is available, Zay Flowers is an excellent option. Even after signing Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark, the Panthers need a true number one, and that could be Flowers. Flowers is small but fast and dominated his senior year at Boston College to the tune of 12 touchdowns. He could make life easy for whoever the next Q.B. of the Panthers is.
Jordan Addison being available at 39 would be a coup for the Panthers, but they could even trade up for the star wideout out of USC. Addison did his best work at the University of Pittsburgh, dominating college football with just under 1600 yards and 17 touchdowns. He would be an excellent fit on the Panthers because his excellent route-running and ability to go and get jump balls despite his small size makes him a perfect asset for a young quarterback. Addison is widely considered one of the draft’s five best receivers, but it wouldn’t be a shocker if he made it to the early second round.
If the Panthers don’t want to go for a wideout after they draft a quarterback, an edge rusher is the next likeliest option. Getting someone to create pressure alongside Brian Burns would be a major win for the defense, and Smith has all the physical traits to be a game-wrecker at the next level. The Georgia defender never put up excellent stats in college but dominated the combine by running a 4.39 forty-yard dash. Imagine the speed of a Burns and Smith pass rush; quarterbacks in the NFC South would not stand a chance. If he is available in the second round or for a trade-up in the late first, the Panthers won’t hesitate.