The 2023 NFL Draft begins on Thursday, April 27 as the first round picks are announced. The second and third rounds take place on Friday, and the whole thing wraps up with the fourth through seventh rounds on Saturday. TGH will be taking a quick look at the first few picks for some teams, and shedding some light on what direction they will go. Here is the Carolina Panthers NFL Draft profile for 2023.
The Panthers need almost everything, as they are in rebuild mode. They’ll obviously go with a quarterback first, but with D.J. Moore being traded away and a new coach in the fold, Carolina will just be looking to load up on young talent. Expect them to go with the best player available in most spots, unless it’s a 2023 draft redundancy.
Pick #1: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
To secure the number one overall pick from the Bears, the Panthers traded away Moore, pick number nine this year, a second round pick this year, a 2024 first rounder and a 2025 second rounder. That’s a pretty hefty package to move up just eight spots, so the Panthers have to nail this selection.
There are four (maybe five) quarterbacks expected to leave the board in the first round. Anthony Richardson is too much of a gamble, Will Levis is too careless with the football and Hendon Hooker is too injured, so they won’t be the pick here. That leaves Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud.
Although it could go either way, Stroud is likely their pick. One could argue that Young has more upside and is just as NFL-ready as Stroud, but he’s small for the position. Taking a look at Kyler Murray’s injury history coupled with his demand to be protected, that may not be where the team wants to go.
Stroud is a boring selection, and Ohio State quarterbacks just don’t pan out in the NFL (Justin Fields pending, of course). But he’s ready now and he played in and ran a quick and high flying offense in college. New head coach Frank Reich is seen as a quarterback whisperer throughout the league, so he could raise Stroud’s ceiling right away.
Pick #39: Josh Downs, WR, UNC
The dream picks here are either Zay Flowers or Jordan Addison. However, Flowers has been shooting up boards since the NFL Draft season began. And although Addison has been falling in a lot of recent mock drafts, it’s hard to see a scenario in which a wide receiver-hungry team doesn’t take him before 39 just due to his upside.
In 2022, Downs had 94 catches for over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns at UNC. During his 2021 campaign, he had 101 catches for for over 1,300 yards and eight scores. Those numbers are very impressive, and nothing to sneeze at. Will he be as good of a pro as Moore? It’s possible, but either way the Panthers need to swing early for a receiver to pair with their new quarterback.
Pick #93: Tucker Kraft, TE, SDSU
Many mock drafts have the Panthers going for another edge rusher to pair with Brian Burns, but that sounds like a bit of a luxury pick for a team that needs to get better everywhere. Taking an edge rusher would make sense if they planned on replacing Burns, but they seem hellbent on keeping him as of now. Plus, they could aim to bring a decent pass rusher on board in free agency.
Reich needs to build his side of the ball quickly, and (as stated earlier) pair his new quarterback with weapons with which he can grow alongside. Going with three-straight offense players might seem goofy, but it’s a start to building an identity quickly.
People are very high on the 2023 tight end class, and as many as three or four may be picked in the first two rounds. Tucker Kraft, however, has a decent chance to fall to the Panthers at 93. He’s decently strong, and collected almost 99 receptions during his three years in college. He’d be a fit for this new system that Reich is cultivating.
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