2023 NFL draft: Latest on Carolina Panthers' No. 1 pick

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Tuesday, April 25, 2023

The Carolina Panthers now have the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL draft, and they will surely be targeting a quarterback prospect. The Panthers moved up from No. 9 overall in a trade with the Chicago Bears, who originally had the top pick after a 3-14 season.

Four quarterbacks have the chance to be the No. 1 selection as we move closer to the draft. Alabama's Bryce Young and Ohio State's C.J. Stroud are among the favorites, but there is also a chance that the Panthers fall in love with the potential of either Kentucky's Will Levis or Florida's Anthony Richardson. The Panthers have been searching for an answer under center for a while now, finishing 31st (27.6) and 30th (35.7) in Total QBR in the past two seasons, respectively. Four different quarterbacks have started at least five games for them over that time. This move gives Carolina the chance to find its franchise signal-caller.

As we move toward draft month, we're tracking all the latest news, buzz and rumors around who will go No. 1 overall, with insight from our NFL reporters, insiders, draft experts and sports betting analysts. Most recent updates are on top, and all betting updates are via Caesars Sportsbook.

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Tuesday, April 25

David Newton, Panthers reporter:League sources familiar with the team's plans, oddsmakers and many draft analysts believe the Panthers' choice at No. 1 in Thursday's NFL draft will be Young despite his 5-foot-10, 204-pound frame that has skeptics concerned about his durability.

"I feel through this process we made the right decision,'' Fitterer said. "... I'd hate to be at [No. 9] right now trying to figure this out.''

The Panthers kept Richardson and Levis in the conversation throughout the process even though Young and Stroud were the primary targets from the day the trade was made, according to a league front office source familiar with the situation.

"We are consciously trying to keep all four in there so we can ask every question and look at it from every angle to make sure we're making the right decision,'' Fitterer said. "We want to keep this process open all the way through.''

With all of the preparation the Panthers have done, it's no wonder Fitterer appeared so relaxed that close to making the top overall pick this Thursday.

"So I know we made the right decision to go up there,'' Fitterer said. "When we made the [trade], we felt strongly there would be a guy there that we wanted.''

Monday, April 24

Todd McShay, NFL draft analyst: Based on numerous conversations with league sources, I have every indication Alabama quarterback Young will be the first player off the board. Young is my top-ranked prospect in the class and can be the long-term fix for the Panthers under center.

Tuesday, April 18

Newton: Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer made it clear Tuesday that Young has not been told he will be the top pick of the NFL draft.

Fitterer's comment came 24 hours after Young canceled the rest of his pre-draft visits.

"That was a decision he made on his own," Fitterer said at the team's pre-draft news conference. "I just refer you to his reps and to Bryce as to the why."

Fitterer reiterated that he still hasn't asked coach Frank Reich whom he would select but said he believes they'll be on the same page once he does ask.

"The reason I didn't want to ask [Reich] that question was I didn't want to close off our minds to where we, like, made that decision back in March," Fitterer said. "But we do see things the same way. We value the same traits, the same characteristics. There's certain things we really want, and that's where the clarity comes from."

Sunday, April 16

Newton:Young over Stroud? Stroud over Young?

Many in the league who were interviewed believe it will be Stroud, mostly because the former Ohio State quarterback, at 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds, fits the physical stature that first-year Carolina coach Reich is accustomed to working with.

Many others interviewed believe Alabama's Young (5-10, 204) checks more boxes.

"Bryce is a better player despite his size,'' said one NFL executive, echoing the thoughts of others speaking on condition of anonymity.

Unknown is whether the early buzz that Reich might prefer the bigger Stroud over Young was a smokescreen or whether concerns over Young's size and durability (despite starting 27 of a possible 28 games over the past two seasons) really will be the deciding factor for Carolina.

Here's a tale of the tape on height, arm strength, processing, leadership and playmaking -- and whether experts think Young or Stroud is the better pick for Carolina.

Friday, April 7

Jeremy Fowler, NFL insider:I asked at least 20 NFL personnel people, and the votes are essentially split between Young and Stroud.The Panthers have done a stealth job holding the suspense, and only a few people in their building truly know the name that's going on the draft card.

But the Panthers' evaluation process is not done. Carolina will host several of the quarterbacks as part of their top-30 visits.

Thursday, March 30

Dan Graziano, NFL Insider: The Panthers would have you believe they moved up from No. 9 to No. 1 in the draft without knowing which quarterback they're taking. As you'd expect, some people don't believe that, and a very unscientific poll of sources to whom I spoke at the 2023 NFL annual meeting tells me most people believe they know who they are taking.

But Panthers coach Frank Reich was adamant Tuesday that they're going through their process and considering each of the top four quarterback prospects equally.

Tuesday, March 28

Newton:Levis and Richardson still are being evaluated, so they're still technically in the running, but according to sources with knowledge of the search, the Panthers' choice is between Stroud and Young.

The biggest difference between the two is size, which took up a considerable amount of coach Frank Reich's time at Tuesday's annual media breakfast at the owners meetings.

Young is 5-foot-10 and 204 pounds. Stroud is 6-3, 214.

Reich made it clearer than he has at any point during the process that this is more about durability than height, and that durability is a concern with Young due to his stature, though he missed only one game at Alabama.

Mike Tannenbaum, NFL front office insider: After trading up to No. 1, I'd be going all-in on Young. It was a tough call for me, and I just narrowly picked him over Stroud. But while Young's 5-foot-10, 204-pound size is a concern, his talent is unquestionable. He's the guy I'd lean on to turn the passing game around in Carolina.

Friday, March 24

McShay: Levis had two dinners on Thursday night before his pro day workout -- one with thePanthers' brass who have been traveling to each QB pro day this week and one with the Las Vegas Raiders. During the workout, he showcased his huge arm, and his footwork appears improved. Ultimately, the fit is going to be interesting for Levis. Despite his experience and work in a pro-style offense, I personally don't know that Levis is ready to start in Year 1.

Thursday, March 23

McShay:ThePanthersmoved from Columbus to Tuscaloosa, and their contingent went to dinner with Young the night before his Thursday workout. Carolina's group again included owner David Tepper, GM Fitterer, Reich and others. Young didn't throw at the combine, so this was an opportunity for them to see him in that setting.

I've heard some buzz that Carolina likes Young at No. 1, but like I said Wednesday, the Panthers are going to put out a lot of smokescreens to keep the competition off the scent. And frankly, they are likely far from a final decision on who they want with the top draft pick. I know this: Carolina is blessed to have a really tough decision on its hands, because there are some really good quarterbacks atop this class.

Newton:Alabama coach Nick Saban believes Carolina saw not only the best quarterback, but perhaps the best player in the draft on Thursday.

"Hopefully, he'll be the first pick in the draft," said Saban, who spent time Thursday talking to the Carolina contingent, including Tepper and Reich. "Nobody knows that for sure. But we're certainly hopeful, and we think he's the best player in the draft.''

Young and Stroud downplayed their case for being the top pick, although Stroud admitted that's where he'd like to go.

"It's been a dream of mine for a very, very long time," he said Wednesday. "My dad used to make me wear a first-round draft pick, first pick of the draft shirt. It was either basketball or football. He set that foundation early on."

Said Young on Thursday, "I don't have an argument. I want to present myself in the best light. But I don't control where I'm picked, who picks me. I'll be grateful for whatever team takes a chance on me."

Wednesday, March 22

Newton: Adam Thielen admittedly "was trying my hardest'' while being recruited by the Panthers to get a feel for which quarterback they planned to select with the top pick of the NFL draft.

"That was one piece of information they wouldn't give me,'' the former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver said with a laugh Monday on "The Pat McAfee Show."

Thielen signed a three-year, $25 million deal anyway because he liked what Fitterer and Reich had done in free agency.

"We really feel like we're putting this guy [the top pick of the draft] in a good position with some of the pieces we've signed,'' Reich said. "We're going to take every second, every hour, every day to make this decision. We've still got plenty of time left.''

McShay: I was told 18 people from the Panthers' organization were on-site forStroud's pro day on Wednesday, including Tepper, his wife Nicole, Reich, Fitterer, offensive coordinator Thomas Brown and passing game coordinator Parks Frazier. Stroud had dinner with the Panthers' group on Tuesday night. It's not often we see owners at pro day workouts, but Tepper and Co. will continue on to the pro days for the rest of the top QBs, including Young's workout on Thursday in Alabama.

We also need to be prepared for Carolina to float rumors about different people within the organization having infatuations with each of the four top quarterbacks over the next few weeks. Could the Panthers even be putting pressure on the Texans, attempting to force Houston into trading up for the No. 1 pick and recovering some of the lost draft capital from their move up the board in early March?

Monday, March 20

Newton:Reich spoke on Monday and said that he hasn't ruled out any of the four quarterbacks targeted for the top pick of the draft. "When you have the No. 1 pick you don't have to play games, right?" Reich said. "It's not like we're trying to fool anybody. What we're trying to do is take all the time we can on the evaluation."

Fitterer and Reich both insisted all four quarterbacks were in play for the top pick. They also agreed that whoever that quarterback is, the roster has been built in free agency so that player has a chance to start right away despite the addition of veteran quarterback Andy Dalton. The Panthers will attend pro days of all four of the top quarterbacks and plan to bring all four to Charlotte for a visit as well.

Thursday, March 16

David Bearman, sports betting analyst:Stroud continues to move ahead as the betting favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick, now at -275. Young is second at +300, and Richardson is right behind him at +325. Levis is a distant fourth at +3000.

Tuesday, March 14

Adam Schefter, NFL insider: The Panthers and free agent quarterback Andy Dalton are expected to reach an agreement on a two-year, $10 million deal that includes $8 million fully guaranteed, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter. The maximum value of the contract is $17 million, the source said. Dalton will give Carolina the veteran it has been seeking to help bring along the quarterback it selects with the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft. The Panthers are focused on Ohio State's Stroud and Alabama's Young with the first pick, according to sources, although they will continue to evaluate Florida's Richardson and Kentucky's Levis.

Friday, March 10

Bearman: Before the trade for the No. 1 pick, Alabama's Young was the odds-on favorite (-150) to be the first pick taken in April's draft. Ohio State's Stroud was the second favorite at +240. After Carolina traded up for the top pick, those two prospects flipped, with Stroud becoming the favorite (now -225) and Young second (+175). Florida's Richardson went from +450 to +300.

Newton:While Carolina hasn't settled on one of the top quarterbacks at this point, according to a source with direct knowledge of trade talks, it would be a hard sell to go with Florida's Richardson, who is considered more of a project.The early favorites to go No. 1 are Young and Stroud, who both seemed to impress the Carolina staff most at the NFL combine -- particularly Young.

Schefter: The Panthers traded receiver DJ Moore, the No. 9 pick, a late-second-round pick (No. 61), a 2024 first-round selection and a 2025 second-round pick to the Bears in exchange for the No. 1 selection. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that talks for the No. 1 pick had intensified and multiple teams, including the Houston Texans, expressed interest in making a deal with Chicago. The Panthers ultimately pulled off the deal and wantedto get it done before free agency started.

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