Countdown to the NFL Draft: Which quarterback will the Carolina Panthers take at No. 1?

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Thursday, April 27, 2023
Panthers on the clock: Which QB do they choose?
The Carolina Panthers will take a QB with the first pick. Travon Miles takes a look at the top options.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Carolina Panthers coach Frank Reich says he and general manager Scott Fitterer have agreed on which quarterback the team will select with the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.

But Reich says the team won't announce who that is until Thursday night when the draft begins.


Quarterback is a no-brainer, as the Panthers have desperately tried to stabilize that key position since Cam Newton's injuries began to take a toll. Since 2019, seven players have started at the QB position with limited success.

The top options:

BRYCE YOUNG, 5-9, 205, Alabama | Young has all the tools. He excelled in a pro-style offense, can make all the throws, has strong pocket awareness and the ability to create off-schedule plays. The biggest concern surrounding Young is his size. No quarterback who weighed under 207 pounds at the combine has been drafted in the first round. But Young is too talented to slip beyond the Panthers or Houston Texans at No. 2. Young is the proven, safest pick for the Panthers, who can't afford to get this one wrong. The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner could be the answer.

C.J. STROUD, 6-3, 214, Ohio State | Stroud was a finalist for the Heisman the past two seasons at Ohio State. He has the prototypical size and is a precision passer who makes smart decisions. He didn't do too much outside the pocket but showed superior playmaking ability in a College Football Playoff semifinal loss to Georgia.

Stroud finished the 2022 season with 3688 passing yards and 41 touchdowns. One thing that could be working against him? Ohio State quarterbacks have ranged from pedestrian to dismal in the pros. Could Stroud break that mold much as Patrick Mahomes did for Texas Tech quarterbacks?

WILL LEVIS, 6-4, 229, Kentucky | Levis has the size that teams desire and experience playing in a pro-style offense at Kentucky.

He looks the part and has a strong arm but also showed a propensity for making poor decisions and had a subpar season. His boosters love his upside but he's far from a finished product.

Levis played for former Los Angeles Rams assistant Liam Coen in 2021, when he had his best season, but regressed in 2022 under a new offensive coordinator.

ANTHONY RICHARDSON, 6-4, 221, Florida | Every year, experts hype an unproven or obscure signal caller, and this year, it's Richardson, who is surrounded by massive buzz based on his unworldly athleticism and raw potential. He is the least experienced of the four QBs expected to go high in the draft, having started just one season at Florida.

Richardson put up modest numbers, completing 53.8% of his passes for 2,549 yards, with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also ran for 654 yards and nine scores. Richardson has elite dual-threat talent but needs a lot of development.


Fitterer said last week he had waited to ask Reich who he preferred at No. 1 so that nothing would cloud either decision-makers judgment. But on Monday Fitterer finally walked into Reich's office and popped the question on who he prefers - and both agreed on the same QB.

"It was kind of like a proposal - and I said yes," Reich joked Tuesday. "But there is consensus and we are excited."

Young remains the overwhelming favorite to be the first Panthers QB selected No. 1 overall since Cam Newton in 2011, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, although Levis has moved ahead of Stroud.

This is a hugely important pick for Carolina, which has not been to the playoffs since 2017 largely because of inconsistency at the QB position.

Reich praised Fitterer and the scouts for keeping an open mind through the entire process.

"We all went into the thing with ideas and inclinations, but there are ebbs and flows during the process," Reich said. "Is there any change of mind? I wouldn't say there is any drastic change of mind, but there are ebbs and flows on how much you like a guy. And that is why you have to resist the temptation to make your mind up too early.

"The coaches and the scouting staff did a good job of not falling into that trap and just take it for what it is, take it day by day, watch tape and go through the process."

Reich said the team's coaching staff's convictions on who to take "built gradually" over time.

With the top pick decided, Reich said the team is now focusing its attention on its other five picks in the first five rounds of the draft, including the 39th overall selection.

"We are wrapping our minds around that 39th pick and the 93rd pick about all of the scenarios - (trade) up, (trade) down or stay there," Reich said. "What if (this guy) is there; what if he's not. Hey, tell us how this guy fits into the scheme. They have been dynamic discussions and I think we are prepared for those scenarios."


Coverage will be on ABC11, ESPN, and the ESPN App

  • Round 1 begins Thursday, April 27 at 8 p.m.
  • Rounds 2-3: Friday, April 28, 7 p.m.
  • Rounds 4-7: Saturday, April 29, Noon.

The Associated Press contributed.