Now, the NFL draft’s true enigma awaits at the very top.
Who is better, Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud? Win or lose?
Perhaps the Carolina Panthers are abruptly poised to find another franchise quarterback by selecting one of the most highly regarded players from the most recent crop of college talent.
Nonetheless, if they fail, the repercussions could be so catastrophic that the team declines for years.
The Panthers’ cerebral trust, consisting of team owner David Tepper, general manager Scott Fitterer, and new head coach Frank Reich, are under immense duress after trading away a slew of premium draught picks and top-tier receiver DJ Moore to obtain the No. 1 overall selection in the 2023 draught.
As promised, the Chicago Bears traded the first overall pick for additional draught picks to bolster their quarterback Justin Fields-led rebuilding efforts.
However, there is no assurance that the Panthers will convert their exalted standing into a certain victory.
That’s no criticism of Young, the former Alabama sensation who, despite his small stature and lack of height, is widely regarded as the finest quarterback in the draught (5-foot-10, 204 pounds). And there’s no underestimating Stroud’s potential after his phenomenal Ohio State career.
If both Young and Stroud reach their full potential, Carolina may have to choose between them.
Nevertheless, the annals of quarterback failures suggest that it is not automatic.
Remember that the previous Bears regime passed on Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson with the second overall decision in 2017 in favour of Mitchell Trubisky.
Yikes. In 2018, the Baltimore Ravens selected quarterback Lamar Jackson as the fifth quarterback taken in the first round, after Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and Josh Rosen had been taken.
The lesson of the passage is that beauty is in the perception of the beholder.
The history of the draught is rife with such 20-20 hindsight decisions, which should remind us (and the Panthers) of the risks associated with paying the high price to be the first team to call their shot in what is regarded as a quarterback class loaded with elite prospects.
Bill Polian can congratulate himself on the back (again) for selecting Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf with the first overall selection for the Indianapolis Colts in 1998. Leaf had the stronger limb and greater mobility of the two. Manning was the recipient of two Super Bowls and five NFL MVP honours.
In this equation at the top, it is also conceivable that Carolina will trade again, potentially moving down a few spots in order to select Florida native Anthony Richardson or Kentucky’s Will Levis. Richardson is especially intriguing after exploding at the combine as a 24-year-old who ran the 40-yard sprint in 4.43 seconds and set quarterback combine records with a 412-inch vertical leap and 10-foot, 9-inch broad jump.
To move up eight spots in the first round, the Panthers gave up first-round picks this year and next, second-round picks this year and in 2025, and the talented Moore. They could have lost out on all four top-rated quarterbacks if they had remained in the ninth position.
The Panthers have nearly seven weeks to make a decision, given that Reich is now in place as the team’s quarterback coach and is flanked by Jim Caldwell, a QB guru and member of an extensive, accomplished coaching staff. Best wishes with it.
During the combine, following a visit with veteran quarterback Derek Carr (who signed with the New Orleans Saints last week), Reich contemplated a variety of scenarios, including Friday’s trade up.
Reich told reporters at the combine, “Every option is available.” “Of course, it must be. You must recognise that this is an enormous choice. And it would be negligent not to thoroughly review each of these decisions. What is the effect? What are the unintended ramifications? You must consider every aspect of that. And this is the current situation.”
Reich was a quarterback for 14 seasons in the NFL. However, it is ironic that the opportunity presented itself in Carolina after his final seasons coaching the Colts were marred by inconsistent quarterback play. The Colts’ inability to recover from Andrew Luck’s retirement in 2019 ultimately contributed to Reich’s dismissal last season.
Now, Reich has a second chance, as he is paired with a similarly struggling franchise. The last time Carolina had the first overall decision in the draught, in 2011, it was a huge success… for a few years. Cam Newton became one of the most entertaining players in the NFL, earning MVP honours en route to Super Bowl 50. The Panthers have had eight starting quarterbacks in five years since Newton’s prime.
The stage is poised for a resurgence. Nevertheless, nothing is automatic. Remember that Tepper hired a successful college coach, Matt Rhule, to lead his franchise as recently as 2020. The Rhule era was a costly failure, something the Panthers cannot afford when selecting a franchise quarterback.