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Which Quarterback Will Panthers Take At No. 1?

Or do they deal the pick?

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The Carolina Panthers stunned the professional football world this month by trading four high-value draft picks – and star wide receiver DJ Moore – to the Chicago Bears in exchange for the No.1 overall pick in the 2023 National Football League (NFL) draft, scheduled for April 27 in Kansas City.

The Panthers gave up the No. 9 and No. 61 picks in 2023 draft as well as their first and second round picks in 2024.

They also coughed up Moore – the franchise’s first round pick in 2018 who has amassed 5,201 receiving yards and hauled in 21 touchdowns through his first five years in the league.

That’s a lot to give up … although it could wind up being a steal for Carolina in the event the franchise lands a star quarterback with that pick.

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C.J. Stroud (Ohio State Football)

Arguably the best option? Former Ohio State signal-caller C.J. Stroud, who is reportedly the favorite of new head coach Frank Reich. Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 214 pounds, Stroud is prototypical for this position – and his impressive performance against Georgia in last season’s national semifinal game wowed scouts. Still, Panthers’ owner David Tepper is said to prefer former Alabama quarterback (and 2021 Heisman Trophy winner) Bryce Young – even though Reich believes the 5-foot-11, 194-pound field general is too small for the NFL.

Whichever of those quarterbacks goes at No. 1, the Houston Texans are likely to take the other at No. 2.

Beyond that, there are several teams (Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Atlanta) in desperate need of a new starting quarterback – meaning Carolina could conceivably deal the No. 1 pick and still be able to land a franchise starter like Will Levis of Kentucky or Anthony Richardson of Florida at No. 4 (Colts), No. 7 (Raiders) or No. 8 (Falcons) in the draft.

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Anthony Richardson (Florida Football)

Unless, of course, the Panthers’ gambit was all about putting themselves in position to take Richardson – not Stroud, Young or Levis – at No. 1 overall.

A native of Miami, Florida, Richardson had a ridiculous day at the NFL combine in Indianapolis last week – setting new quarterback records in both the vertical (40.5″) and broad jump (10′ 09″) while running the forty-yard dash in a blazing 4.43 seconds.

Did I mention he’s 6-foot-4, 244 pounds? And has an even bigger cannon for an arm than Levis? No wonder there is a growing buzz the Panthers might secretly be eyeing Richardson with the No. 1 overall selection.

“We still don’t know which signal-caller Carolina will target, and it could truthfully be any of the top four names,” noted ESPN analyst Todd McShay wrote in his latest mock draft. “I’ve even heard a little buzz about Carolina being interested in Florida’s Anthony Richardson, who is a raw prospect but is coming off a huge combine performance.”

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Richardson’s downside? He’s the least experienced and least accurate of the top four passers in the upcoming draft class – which is full of solid prospects but doesn’t feature an elite signal caller on par with Joe Burrow (2020) or Trevor Lawrence (2021).

That makes the Panthers’ decision to trade up even more confusing … especially if they wind up rolling the dice on an unproven commodity like Richardson.

The stakes couldn’t be higher for Tepper. The Panthers have posted an anemic 29-53 (.353) record since he assumed ownership of the team – failing to post a winning record or reach the playoffs over that time. By contrast, during the five years prior to Tepper’s purchase the Panthers went 54-32-1 (.621) – reaching the playoffs four times (including a trip to Super Bowl 50).

Will the top pick in this year’s draft turn things around for Carolina? Or has Tepper given away the farm for a future draft day bust?

We shall see. All we know for sure is the Panthers are on the clock with the biggest draft decision of the Tepper era …

UPDATE: Decision made.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Will Folks on phone
Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.

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