Ranked #1 overall pick for the Panthers’ QB options: CJ Stroud is best suited to lead Carolina up front

On Friday night, the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers dropped a bombshell on the rest of the NFL. The two teams agreed to a blockbuster trade this gave Carolina the first choice in the April draft.

Carolina is expected to use the pick to pick one of the best quarterback prospects of the draft. If they pick the right one, the Panthers could make a lot of noise in 2023 given what they showed at the end of last season.

The Panthers finished the 2022 season 5-3 after starting 2-7. Carolina’s strong finish was led by impressive running play led by Chuba Hubbard and solid play by Pro Bowler Brian Burns, cornerback Jaycee Horn and the rest of Carolina’s defense.

While they’re officially on the clock, here’s our ranking of which quarterback the Panthers should pick with their #1 pick overall.

1.CJ Stroud

The former Ohio State standout ticks pretty much every box you could want in a top quarterback prospect. He is the ideal size at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. Stroud was incredibly accurate at Ohio State, completing 69.3 percent of his passes. During his time at Columbus, he was extremely productive, notching 85 touchdowns against just 12 interceptions.

Stroud is also a fierce competitor. Despite sitting out future first-round picks Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, Stroud threw for 573 yards and six touchdowns to lead the Buckeyes to an exciting come-from-behind win at the 2022 Rose Bowl.

Last fall, despite suffering an injury, Stroud continued to play in a late-season game against Maryland and played at a high level. In the loss, Stroud threw for nearly 350 yards and two touchdowns against Michigan. A month later, Stroud faced national champions Georgia, throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns as Ohio State almost ended the excitement.

The biggest blows to Stroud at Ohio State were his 0-2 record against Michigan and his perceived unwillingness to run. However, Stroud played well in both games against Michigan, and any reservations about a possible unwillingness to run were likely due to protecting his body after injuring himself against Maryland.

2.Bryce Young

It wasn’t an easy decision, but Stroud’s size and slightly better accuracy put him in preference to Young, who many believe will be the first player picked in the draft.

Young’s height (he checked into the NFL Combine at 5ft 10, 204 pounds) was his biggest question mark before the draft. Young, however, didn’t let his size deter him from putting up gaudy numbers in Alabama. 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Young completed nearly 66 percent of his passes while throwing 79 touchdowns and 12 picks in his last two years in Alabama.

Like Stroud, Young ended his college career on a high. He threw five touchdowns and completed more than 71% of his shots during Alabama’s Sugar Bowl win over Kansas State. Young ended his career with a 24-4 record as the starting quarterback for Alabama.

Young, who is touted for his high soccer IQ, also displayed an ability to take any shot during his college years. He also displayed impressive leadership qualities that endeared him to his teammates.

3. Will Levis

Some members of the media, including our own CBS Sports Senior NFL writer Pete Prisco, believe Levis is the best quarterback in the draft. Levis is the ideal height at 6ft 3 and 222lbs. He’s got a right arm cannon that he’s not afraid to test against any defense. He also has solid mobility which allowed him to play with his legs in Kentucky.

Levis’ question marks are pretty obvious. He threw 25 interceptions in college and fumbled the ball 17 times. Part of Levi’s penchant for turnover stemmed from his confidence. It could also be attributed, at least in part, to a spotty pass guard and his rocket throws being deflected by his own receivers.

There’s a reason the Panthers might be looking beyond Levi’s sales. The Panthers won the majority of their games late last season, relying on running play and defense. That will probably remain their philosophy in 2023, no matter who is the focus. That being said, the Panthers can’t completely hide their quarterback, so it would be up to Levis to take better care of the ball when he has his throwing opportunities.

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