FILE - Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud, left, talks to Alabama quarterback Bryce Young at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 4, 2023. The Carolina Panthers have been on the clock since making a blockbuster trade last month to acquire the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft and get their choice of potential franchise quarterbacks. There is still no general consensus on which QB will go first. Stroud or Young? (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

Carolina Panthers Still Undecided on First Overall Pick

The Carolina Panthers hold the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft but have remained quiet on who they will draft.

The Panthers’ Plan

General manager Scott Fitterer says his team has not yet made a decision on who it will take in the first round. The top candidates this year, as they so often are, are quarterbacks. Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Florida’s very own Anthony Richardson are the three names that have been swirling in rumors.

Carolina acquired the top pick in a deal with the Chicago Bears, who got the pick after finishing 3-14 this past season.  The Panthers acquired the first pick in exchange for the No. 9 pick, the No. 61 pick, a first-round pick in 2024, a second-round pick in 2025 and wide receiver D.J. Moore. Fitterer said the organization is “still going through the process.”

Additionally, he said the team gained some clarity since the combine in February, but that the first selection is still up in the air. While Fitterer admitted that “it is fun to have the No. 1 pick,” he also said that it wasn’t his team’s sole focus.

He intends to focus on the whole weekend, not just the first pick. Carolina finished 7-10 last season and will look to go all-in over the next few years after trading for the top pick.

The Candidates

Young was a two-year starter at Alabama, winning a plethora of awards including the Heisman Trophy in 2021. In his time in Tuscaloosa, Young threw for 8,356 yards, 80 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. As a starter, Young and Alabama won the SEC in 2021 and went to the title game that same year. He was marvelous as a player, but some have doubted his size as he prepares to enter the NFL. At 5-foot-10 and only 195 pounds, experts like Todd McShay have their doubts, saying that GMs will be hesitant to draft Young.

Stroud lit up the Big Ten in his two years as a starter at Ohio State. He finished his college career with 8,123 yards, 85 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He led the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff this past year, where they lost a heartbreaker to Georgia after a missed field goal. Stroud won the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 2021 and 2022. Some are concerned with his supposed lack of progress from his freshman to sophomore year, but overall, he’s seen as a slam-dunk prospect in this draft.

Richardson

Richardson lit up the internet this year with his blazing speed and ridiculous arm strength. The hometown kid was just a one-year starter at Florida, and he finished his career with 3,105 yards, 24 touchdowns and 15 interceptions as a Gator. Despite his seemingly lackluster numbers, his athletic upside has dropped jaws. Every metric graded Richardson’s speed, strength, arm ability and more at the top of his class. He finished with the top “Athleticism Score” among QBs at the 2023 combine according to NFL’s Next Gen stats. He was on a team that was significantly worse than Young or Stroud and had to carry Florida’s offense through a tough 2022 season. Richardson was graded as the best on-the-run thrower in college football this past season.

Of course, his mediocre passing numbers and inconsistency from the pocket have many experts skeptical. However, if he improves his accuracy and stays healthy, he has the highest upside of any quarterback in the draft.

Other standout prospects include linebacker Will Anderson, defensive lineman Jalen Carter, defensive back Christian Gonzalez, edge Tyree Wilson, linebacker Nolan Smith and tackle Paris Johnson Jr. However, it seems obvious that Carolina is in the market for a quarterback.

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