The 2023 NFL Draft is less than a week away, and according to most sports books and NFL insiders, former Alabama quarterback Bryce Young is a shoo-in for the No. 1 overall pick held by the Carolina Panthers. As a result, the question has shifted from who the Panthers will take with their first pick to who they should take. This draft cycle, three quarterbacks have been linked to the top since Carolina acquired in from Chicago in March.
Young, along with Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Florida’s Anthony Richardson, have been the top contenders for the prestigious honor of No. 1 overall pick. The three offer distinct differences in both style and skill set, appealing to different groups of fans.
Young offers a level of processing and poise seldom seen at the college level, and his ability to play both in and out of structure shows his flexibility as a player. This complete skill set has led many to see him safe play at No. 1.
Stroud was the betting favorite to go first overall immediately following the Panthers’ trade with the Bears. However, those talks have died down in recent weeks. Stroud is one of the most precise pocket passers to enter the draft in recent memory. He also has underrated movement skills and played well under pressure against Georgia in the playoff.
Richardson has become the draft’s biggest wild card due to his elite physical tools and underwhelming college production. Though he is in need of some refinement, Richardson’s arm-talent and athletic ability give him a ceiling that no one else in the class can match.
The draft has always been a matter of personal preference. There’s a case to be made for and against all three quarterbacks. We know that barring something unforeseen, Young will hear his name called first, but does he really fit the mold of a star quarterback in the modern NFL?
The answer isn’t a clear yes or no. On the one hand, he has the best football intellect in this class, and his feel for the game makes him the most situation-proof quarterback in this draft. Where things get murkier in Young’s evaluation is looking at his physical profile. At 5’10, 204 pounds, he will be the smallest starting quarterback in the NFL next season. Many are quick to point out that shorter quarterbacks like Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray have made it work in the NFL, but the truth is Young plays nothing like them.
Murray and Wilson have relied greatly on their physical abilities throughout their careers to compensate for their deficiencies as dropback passers, but Young lacks both the arm strength and overall athleticism to win that way. The closest comparisons to Young stylistically are probably Joe Burrow and Dak Prescott. The issue is both quarterbacks are much bigger and took a lot of hits early in their careers. Prescott, as a dual threat, had many designed rushes before his injuries, and Burrow’s propensity for extending plays resulted in him taking extra hits.
Young’s diminutive stature makes him less equipped to play a brand of football that has him take so many hits. He’ll have to get rid of the ball much quicker than Prescott and Burrow and take fewer hits. Young doesn’t quite fit into a single box, as his game encompasses elements from several different NFL quarterbacks. His size makes his ceiling hard to project at the next level, but he’s a safe pick and has fewer holes than anyone else in the draft.
It’s not flashy, but Young to Carolina makes sense, and 12 years after selecting quarterback Cam Newton with the first overall pick, the Panthers have a chance to secure their next franchise quarterback.