In one of the most stacked quarterback classes in recent memory, the Carolina Panthers made the bold move of trading up to the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft before free agency started and used that to select Bryce Young, the near-unanimous No. 1 ranked quarterback from Alabama.
After seeming months of back-and-forth over which quarterback they’d select, the Panthers let it be known that, actually, they were all-in on Young from the start. What can Young do, and was it worth it?
What Is the Consensus on Bryce Young?
The analysts who contributed to the Industry Consensus Big Board were in on Young. Sixty percent of analysts had Young as their top quarterback, and 77% of them had him as a top-five player overall, with another 17% placing Young inside their top 10.
Despite the concerns about his size and other limitations, he generated near-universal acclaim as a top-level quarterback.
Dane Brugler of The Athletic ranked Young No. 1 overall, saying that he “is a natural passer with an instinctive feel for throw location and play extension. Despite limited physical traits, he has the high-end intangibles and talent required to be an impact starter.”
Ian Cummings of Pro Football Network ranked Young sixth overall and said of the prospect, “He’s unnaturally poised both in the pocket and in off-script plays, has rare instincts in adverse situations, and has hyper-elite creation capacity, which he can use to extend plays, nullify early wins by a defense, and drag his team out of trouble when they need it.”
He added: “Even beyond his creation capacity, Young has enough arm talent to be a high-level starter, with passable strength, as well as superb elasticity and layering ability.”
Cummings further pointed out Young’s accuracy and efficiency in rhythm and his high-level anticipation. Young is generally regarded as one of the few quarterback prospects we’ve seen who has played both within structure and out of structure at an extremely high level.
If Young had the same skill set at 6’4” and 220 pounds, he might be the best quarterback prospect of all time. In fact, when asking analysts to rank this year’s class against the past five years of QB classes — which included a generational prospect in Trevor Lawrence — Young ranked fifth overall and would likely rank fourth in a larger survey, given that C.J. Stroud beat him in the smaller sample but not the larger one.
Only Lawrence, Joe Burrow, and Justin Fields ranked ahead of them.
The size concerns are real, however. On Bomani Jones’ podcast, former NFL coach and current contributor to The Athletic, Nate Tice, revealed the results of a study he conducted on quarterback size.
Height didn’t matter all that much, but weight did. Quarterbacks below 210 pounds were much more likely to get injured than those above 210, with the rare outliers coming from top-level athletes like Lamar Jackson and Michael Vick.
Young isn’t that, and there will always be concerns about his ability to hold up at his weight — a weight likely below the 204 pounds he measured in at during the NFL Scouting Combine.
The question will be whether Young’s phenomenal field vision and more than functional athleticism will allow him to get away with the improvisational play out of pocket he demonstrated.
Does Bryce Young Have the Intangibles?
Young was purpose-built for this moment. Not only is he an elite quarterback in structure and out of structure — the best in both categories in this year’s class — he’s been training for it since he was six years old.
His coaches have raved about him throughout his career. The head coach of the legendary Mater Dei high school — which has produced five-star recruit after five-star recruit at quarterback — called Young the best quarterback he had ever coached.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said, “Bryce is one of the best guys that I’ve ever been around pro or college when it comes to understanding the defense and making the calls to get people picked up on the blitz.”
Part of Young’s training has been in emotional regulation and preparing for leadership. Early on, he was trained by private quarterback coach Will Hernandez, who said that one of the biggest things a quarterback coach can do for a player is to train them on the emotional side of playing the game.
It’s important to make sure the mechanics are there, and it’s critical to learn defenses and diagnose plays. But without the ability to connect to teammates, much of that talent is lost. Young’s communication training started early, and he was tasked with making sure his teammates were never too caught up in themselves or the mistakes that they had made.
Hernandez mentioned that while Young played at Cathedral High School — the first time he played varsity football, before transferring to Mater Dei — that he would often play in tournaments with other JV players despite practicing with the varsity squad.
“He was great at it, to be honest with you,” Hernandez told Pro Football Network. “He had this kind of awareness to be able to get these guys the ball at their speed. He was able to throw that back shoulder to that kid running a 4.4 or the kid running a 5-flat.”
His ability to connect with his teammates from a communicative level and quite literally with his throws is what separated Young from other quarterbacks and is one reason why Mater Dei was so excited to roster him to continue the program’s legacy.
Internal emotional regulation is important, too. “One of the things Bryce has done a good job of,” said Hernandez, “is just never really getting caught up in being upset. The highs can’t be too high, the lows can’t be too low.”
While this has become a common trait of Alabama QBs — Hernandez suspects that they scout quarterbacks with this trait in mind — it’s still unique among college prospects, especially ones with his consistent track record of success.
Does Young Have the Production?
Young has succeeded at every level, leading one of the best middle school teams in California, one of the best high school teams in the country, and the top college program in the country — securing a Heisman along the way.
Young ranked No. 1 in the FBS in passing grade from Pro Football Focus. Sports Info Solutions’ internal points added metric, called “Total Points,” ranked him first overall in total points, total points per game, total points per throw, and total points per play.
Young ranked first among quarterbacks in SIS’ total points per rushing attempt and first in their IQR metric, a modified passer rating metric that adjusts for dropped passes, dropped interceptions, pressure, types of coverage, and depth of throw.
Young ranked second behind Jake Haener in rate of catchable passes while throwing deeper than Haener. He also ranked second to Clayton Tune in “on target” rate — the rate of passes that did not require the receiver to adjust to the throw.
The Alabama QB has been remarkably productive, and he was ready to call his own plays while still in high school, changing plays at the line of scrimmage based on film study earlier in the week. Young had some of the most freedom at the line we’ve ever seen from an Alabama quarterback, and his recognition and quick processing are essentially established facts at this point.
He may not have the arm strength of a player like Josh Allen or Will Levis, but Young has more than enough to succeed at the NFL level. Young checks every box except size, and that’s a pretty good foundation for Carolina to lay its bets down on.
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