The 2023 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, but no one knows who the Carolina Panthers will take with the No. 1 overall pick. After trading an assortment of picks and star receiver DJ Moore in order to jump from No. 9 to No. 1, it’s safe to say Carolina will select a quarterback. But with four QB options on the table with varying skill sets, they could go in any direction.
The betting favorite to go No. 1 changed from Bryce Young to C.J. Stroud after the Panthers made the trade. However, between the Scouting Combine, Ohio State and Alabama Pro Days, and interview sessions, the Panthers could be swayed in any direction.
We’re taking a look at whether Young should be the No. 1 overall pick in 2023.
Should Bryce Young Be Drafted No. 1 Overall in 2023?
There are clear pros and cons to each of the draft’s consensus top-four quarterbacks.
Stroud is a throwback pocket passer with elite accuracy, but his playmaking leaves room for improvement. Anthony Richardson is a freak athlete with a rocket arm, but his lack of refinement and experience shows. Will Levis is a good athlete with a great arm and has experience in a traditional scheme, but his decision-making and accuracy are inconsistent.
Young is the easiest player of the four to project. He’s a dynamic playmaker inside and outside of the pocket, thanks to his rare agility. His experience on the big stage can’t be questioned after starting two years at Alabama, winning one Heisman Trophy (2021) and one national championship (2020).
He certainly appears to be in the mix. According to Nick Carboni of WCNC, Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer said, “they don’t have any height [or] weight requirements on [a] rookie QB.” ESPN’s David Newton added that it’s not Young’s on-field tape that will matter the most but rather “how he interacted with others” and “what he said in their private meetings.”
MORE: Carolina Panthers Trade — Is C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson, or Will Levis Their Target?
Both of those sentiments make sense as the NFL has changed. Success at the quarterback position is about more than physical traits. However, there is a baseline of traits that are required to become an elite quarterback, and winning without an elite signal-caller has grown increasingly hard over the last decade.
With a career completion rate of 65.8%, 8,356 passing yards, 80 touchdowns, and only 12 interceptions, Young’s numbers clearly show a good decision-maker and NFL-caliber accuracy. As I do each year with every top quarterback prospect, I charted each of Young’s throws to further distinguish how catchable his passes are in comparison to past quarterback prospects. I also put everything into a video thread to highlight examples.
The results were mixed. It’s easy to see that Young is accurate with his passes, and he has a true playmaker gene for performing when it matters most. He’s the most trustworthy of the four players when it’s crunch time, as the moment never seems too big.
If the Panthers were to build around Young, head coach Frank Reich would want to maximize his movement ability. His size, which is a factor because he’s only 5’10” and 204 pounds, was exposed even in 2022 as he sustained a shoulder injury after barely being touched when escaping the pocket. There’s a delicate balance between getting Young advantageous throwing platforms and creating easy rush lanes for blitzers.
ESPN’s Todd McShay doesn’t think his size should affect his draft stock and compared him to Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes. I rarely saw that type of talent with Young, who better compares to a mixture of Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. There could be worst comparisons than to two previous top overall picks.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board
Young has mediocre arm strength, at times struggling to push the ball into tight passing windows or hit his target in stride. That’s where he falls short of Murray’s talent as a thrower. His placement on passes is generally good but does not consistently maximize his receivers’ ability to create plays upfield like Mahomes or Joe Burrow, and this was a factor as to why Mayfield eventually failed to keep a starting job in the NFL.
He’ll have to process quicker both pre- and post-snap at the next level as he often held onto the ball for too long. He was average under pressure, throwing a catchable ball only 54% of the time, which is similar to how Marcus Mariota, Malik Willis, and Mayfield performed in college. His third- and fourth-down accuracy was comparable to Drew Lock, Dak Prescott, and Carson Wentz, so again, there was significant room for improvement.
If Young can essentially be used like Jeff Garcia was for the 49ers in his best years — an athletic game manager who occasionally creates big plays — he can be above average. But it’s hard to see a path to being one of the nine or 10 passers who are massive influencers on their team winning.
Because there are other quarterbacks in this class who have a clearer pathway to being that top-end, All-Pro caliber playmaker, it’s hard to say Young should be the top overall pick. He may have the highest floor because of his consistency and well-rounded game, but the mixture of injury concerns and lack of ability to improve his physical traits are massive considerations.