Now the real mystery beckons at the top of the NFL draft.
Bryce Young or CJ Stroud? I’m feeling lucky?
Perhaps the Carolina Panthers are suddenly ready to finally find their answer for another franchise quarterback by picking one of the top-rated players from the newest pool of college talent.
If they blow it up, however, the impact could be devastating, sinking the team for years.
After trading a bunch of premium picks and high-profile receiver DJ Moore to pick 1 overall in the 2023 draft, this is the pressure on the Panthers’ brain trust, which includes team owner David Tepper, general manager , belongs to Scott Fitterer and the new coach Frank Reich.
As promised, the Chicago Bears have used the top pick in more draft picks to help rebuild around their dynamic quarterback Justin Fields.
However, there’s no promise that the Panthers will turn their lofty position into a surefire slam dunk.
NFL MOCKDRAFT:The Panthers’ trade for the No. 1 rocks the entire first round
That’s no blow to Young, the former Alabama star, who many consider the best quarterback in the draft despite his short stature and height (5-foot-10, 204 pounds). And the potential of Stroud, who has had his phenomenal career in Ohio State, is not neglected.
If both Young and Stroud live up to their potential, it might be a simple either/or decision for Carolina.
But history shows that with so many quarterback flops, it’s hardly automatic.
Remember, the former Bears regime drafted Mitchell Trubisky second overall in 2017, passing on Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.
In 2018, the Baltimore Ravens landed Lamar Jackson as the fifth quarterback pick at the end of the first round after Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen were long gone.
Moral of the choice: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The history of the draft is awash with such 20-20 hindsight decisions that should remind us (and the Panthers) of the risks involved in paying the high price to become the first team to put their shot in what is celebrated as the top. heavy quarterback class.
Somehow, Bill Polian can pat himself on the back (again) for picking Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf for the Indianapolis Colts with the top pick in 1998. Between the two, Leaf had a stronger arm and better agility. Turns out, Manning was the one to win two Super Bowls and five NFL MVP awards.
In this equation at the top, it’s also possible that Carolina could act again and possibly move down a few spots to snag Florida product Anthony Richardson or Kentucky’s Will Levis. Richardson is particularly intriguing after he blew up the combine as a 244-pounder who blitzed with a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash and set combine quarterback records with a 40½-inch vertical leap and a 10-foot long jump and 9 Customs set up.
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As it stands now, the Panthers gave up first-round picks this year and next, second-round picks this year and 2025, as well as the talented Moore, who moved up eight places in the first round. Had they stayed in ninth place, they could have missed all four top-rated quarterbacks.
With Reich now installed as an internal quarterback handler and flanked by a QB guru in Jim Caldwell as part of a deep, accomplished coaching staff, the Panthers have nearly seven weeks to make up their minds.
Good luck with it.
During the combine, after visiting veteran Derek Carr (who signed with the New Orleans Saints last week), Reich pondered various scenarios — including exactly what happened in Friday’s trading.
“All options are on the table,” Reich told Combine reporters. “I mean it has to be. You have to know that this is a big decision. And it would be misconduct not to really review each of those decisions. What is the impact? What are the unintended consequences? You have to think it all through. And that’s where we are right now.”
Reich is a former quarterback who has played 14 NFL seasons. But it’s ironic that the Carolina opportunity arose after his final seasons, when the Colts coach was marred by shaky quarterback play. That the Colts never recovered from Andrew Luck’s retirement in 2019 ultimately contributed to Reich’s firing last season.
Now there’s a makeover for Reich to match a similarly challenged franchise. The last time Carolina had the top pick in the draft, back in 2011, it turned out to be a resounding success…for a few years. Cam Newton emerged as one of the most exciting players in the NFL, winning the league’s MVP honor en route to Super Bowl 50. But since Newton’s heyday, the Panthers have had eight quarterbacks in the starting XI in five years.
The table is set for a revival.
But no, nothing is automatic. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago (2020) that Tepper hired a successful college coach, Matt Rhule, to head up his franchise. The Rhule era turned out to be a costly disaster — something the Panthers can’t afford when choosing a franchise quarterback.