Analysis

NFL Draft 2023: who could the Carolina Panthers take first overall?

We take a look at the top three quarterbacks heading into the draft as the Carolina Panthers look to replace DJ Moore
Bryce Young, CJ Stroud and Anthony Richardson are all options for the Carolina Panthers (Images: Getty)Bryce Young, CJ Stroud and Anthony Richardson are all options for the Carolina Panthers (Images: Getty)
Bryce Young, CJ Stroud and Anthony Richardson are all options for the Carolina Panthers (Images: Getty)

It is just three days to go before the Carolina Panthers are on the clock as the 2023 NFL Draft gets underway on Thursday night.

The Panthers have the first overall pick in the draft after trading star wide receiver DJ Moore in a blockbuster trade with the Chicago Bears prior to the start of free agency. Frank Reich’s Panthers are widely expected to take a quarterback with the first pick as they look to find their franchise quarterback after years of trying to find a solution at the position.

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Since the departure of Cam Newton in 2020, the Panthers have tried PJ Walker, Will Grier, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield at the position before they ended up re-signing Newton in 2021. The Panthers even invested a third-round pick into Matt Corral last year. However, he has yet to play a competitive snap, after he suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury in preseason last year.

Ahead of his first season at the Bank of America stadium, Reich will hope to find a solution and help guide the Panthers back to the postseason for the first time since 2017. Without further ado, we take a look at the top three quarterbacks heading into the draft.

Bryce Young

Bryce Young #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws a pass against the Kansas State Wildcats during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome on December 31, 2022 (Image: Getty)Bryce Young #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws a pass against the Kansas State Wildcats during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome on December 31, 2022 (Image: Getty)
Bryce Young #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws a pass against the Kansas State Wildcats during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome on December 31, 2022 (Image: Getty)

Young is expected to be a top two pick on Thursday with both the Panthers and the Houston Texans in need of a new quarterback. The Pennsylvania native enters the 2023 Draft after a superb run with the Alabama Crimson Tide.

During his breathtaking 2021 campaign, the quarterback won the coveted Heisman Trophy to become the fourth Alabama player to win the award after DeVonta Smith, Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry. Young went on to win various other individual awards including the Maxwell Award, the Associated Press’ Player of the Year, Davey O’Brien Award and the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Year.

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Expectations were high during the 2021 campaign after Alabama won the 2020-2021 National Championship, but Young helped them pick up where they left off as he guided them to a second successive SEC Championship title and 29th overall. Young threw for 421 yards and three touchdowns as they defeated Georgia 41-24.

Alabama followed up the win with a 27-6 victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats in the College Football Playoffs semi-finals. However, Young was unable to help the Crimson Tide win a second successive National Championship after losing 33-18 to the Georgia Bulldogs.

The 2022 campaign was less memorable for the Crimson Tide, but Young’s play remained at a high level. Whether he goes first overall remains to be seen, but he’ll no doubt be a high pick on Thursday evening.

The case for CJ Stroud

CJ Stroud of Ohio State participates in a drill during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 04, 2023 (Image: Getty)CJ Stroud of Ohio State participates in a drill during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 04, 2023 (Image: Getty)
CJ Stroud of Ohio State participates in a drill during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 04, 2023 (Image: Getty)

After replacing Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback, Stroud has gone from strength to strength and is widely tipped to be a top three pick. In his first year as a starter in Columbus, Stroud completed 71.9% of his passes, had 4435 passing yards and 44 touchdown passes. In addition, he received nominations for both the Heisman Trophy and Davey O’Brien Award.

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In his second year at the helm, Stroud went from strength to strength as he guided Ohio State to the playoffs. The California native completed 66.3% of his passes for 3688 passing yards and 41 touchdown passes, but he saved arguably his best display until his final game.

Against a fearsome Georgia Bulldogs defense in the College Football playoffs, Stroud showed little fear in the Peach Bowl as he completed 23 passes for 348 yards and four touchdown passes in a 42-41 defeat.

Stroud also missed out in his quest to win the Heisman Trophy once again as he finished third in voting. USC signal-caller Caleb Williams finished first whilst TCU quarterback Max Duggan finished as runner-up. Despite not winning a Heisman Trophy, Stroud’s CV speaks for itself.

Can Anthony Richardson cap off a meteoric rise?

Anthony Richardson #15 of the Florida Gators celebrates after defeating the Florida State Seminoles 24-21 in a game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 27, 2021 (Image: Getty)Anthony Richardson #15 of the Florida Gators celebrates after defeating the Florida State Seminoles 24-21 in a game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 27, 2021 (Image: Getty)
Anthony Richardson #15 of the Florida Gators celebrates after defeating the Florida State Seminoles 24-21 in a game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 27, 2021 (Image: Getty)

Unlike both Young and Stroud, Richardson only has one season of starting experience under his belt in college. In 2021, Richardson rotated in and out of the team with former starter Emory Jones before the Florida Gators decided to commit to him in 2022.

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In comparison to Young and Stroud, Richardson’s production in the air during the 2022 campaign was nothing spectacular. He completed just 53.8% of his passes for 2549 yards and 17 touchdown passes. Although his accuracy was quite low, current superstar quarterbacks such as Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson. In their final college seasons, Allen completed just 56.3% of his passes and Jackson was 59.1%.

Despite the passing accuracy, Richardson was hugely impressive as a runner out of the backfield, posting an impressive statline of 654 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns.

Richardson’s electrifying ability on the ground has earned him comparisons to former MVP Lamar Jackson. The Athletic’s Ted Nguyen is one person who rates Richardson highly, lauding his arm talent, his presence in the pocket and his elite athleticism.

The Florida quarterback’s rapid rise up the rankings was partially thanks to an impressive performance at the NFL Combine in March. Richardson ran the 40-yard dash in under 4.5 seconds, he recorded a vertical jump of 40.5″, logged a broad jump of 10 feet and nine inches and earned the highest grade from the Relative Athletic Score of any quarterback in NFL history.

Richardson’s meteoric rise has given the Panthers a major question that needs to be answered on Thursday. Young, Stroud or Richardson. Who would you choose?

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