Tracking 2023’s latest 1st-round projections for the Panthers

The Carolina Panthers — about a month into the start of sham draft season — were drafted with quarterbacks, quarterbacks and . . . let’s see here. . . oh, more quarterbacks. But can we add a little variety to the latest predictions?

So . . .

Wire pull: QB Anthony Richardson (Florida)

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

If the Panthers don’t regret passing on Justin Fields, they definitely should at this point. They would do well not to make the same mistake twice, and while Richardson doesn’t have nearly the level of prospects that Fields brought out, he still has sky-high potential that could make him a superstar later.

– Luke Ostling QB Will Levis (Kentucky)

Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

* Fake trade with Seattle Seahawks (#5)

GM Scott Fitterer calls his old friends in Seattle to get ahead of other teams for Levis. He’s trading first-round picks this year and next, with Seattle sending back a Day 3 pick to even the exchange. Levi’s physical tools and competitiveness are valued by Boy Scouts, and his inconsistency on footwork and straying from primary reads are obstacles Carolina hopes he can overcome much like Josh Allen did with the Bills.

– Chad Reuter

ESPN: QB CJ Stroud (Ohio State)

Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

It’s likely the Panthers will try to secure a quarterback, but in this sham draft General Manager Scott Fitterer can hold on and salvage his draft capital with Stroud at No. 9. Signing Sam Darnold as a bridge quarterback and drafting Stroud to work with new coach Frank Reich is a smart team-building move. The Ohio State quarterback has incredible shooting accuracy at all levels of the field and showed his pocket runner and mover skills in the college football playoff semifinals against Georgia.

Stroud’s 85 touchdown passes to 12 interceptions during his collegiate career is impressive, and he finished second in QBR in 2022 (88.9). And while Stroud may need time to adjust to an NFL system, he has the passing ability to become the franchise quarterback this team so desperately needs.

– Matt Mueller

Focus Pro Football: QB CJ Stroud (Ohio State)

Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

To call Stroud a consolation prize here would do his good prospects a disservice. He’s an accurate and efficient pocket passer who excels at avoiding sacks. In the past two seasons he has achieved overall marks of 92.2 and 88.9.

– Michael Renner

The Athlete: QB Anthony Richardson (Florida)

Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun

*Arizona Cardinals bogus trade (#3)

With the first quarterback off the board and several teams ahead desperate to find their franchise guy, the Panthers open the Frank Reich era with a splash, making trades and taking a big swipe at the biggest lottery ticket in the draft.

Anthony Richardson’s band doesn’t make him the cleanest QB prospect to rate, but he’s more polished than his reputation would suggest. His footwork and in-pocket feel suggest comfort in the chaos, which is impressive considering how easy it would be for him to get in and run at the first sign of trouble. He has some off-target throwing but not that many terrible decisions, and his dynamic ability to generate offense would give Carolina the juice to establish a new offensive identity.

– Diana Lee

CBS Sports: QB Anthony Richardson (Florida)

The Knoxville News Sentinel

Anthony Richardson is one of the most exciting candidates in this class. The problem: He lacks experience and while his physical ability is scarce, the Panthers are in dire need of a starting QB right now. David Tepper could go down the free agency route (again), but that was, shall we say, a crash shoot. At the end of the day, Carolina may need to move into the top 5 if she wants to get a starting quarterback for Day 1.

– Ryan Wilson

Network Design: QB Anthony Richardson (Florida)

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers fans will either love or hate this choice, but the fact is, this is a choice the team must make. Much like the Colts, the Panthers have attempted to approach their QB position through veteran free agents and trades, and all have failed. It’s time to take a hit at a young quarterback in the draft, and there’s no bigger hit than Anthony Richardson. Richardson is by far the most physically gifted quarterback in this class, displaying rare athleticism and a huge arm. He hasn’t played much football and needs some development, but his advantage is far higher than any other quarterback.

– Brentley Weissman

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Story originally appeared on Panthers Wire


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