Heading into the 2022 season, the Carolina Panthers found themselves in an interesting position. Following a strong offseason expectations were high. But ultimately, they were a team still not prepared to make the leap to the next level
By the end of the season, the team looked drastically different than it did at the start. Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, and PJ Walker all recorded starts at quarterback. In the backfield, they chose to trade away star running back Christian McCaffrey at the deadline. Before the end of the season, the team also chose to move on from head coach Matt Rhule.
Even with their struggles, and changes in the roster, the Panthers finished the 2022 season with a 7-10 record and a second-place finish in the NFC South. After starting the season 2-7, they went 5-3 over their last eight games and narrowly earned a spot in the playoffs.
With their finish, the Panthers earned the ninth overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. As they already have foundational pieces on both sides of the ball, they could choose to address the ninth overall pick in several different ways.
On the defensive side of the ball, they could look to add star power at the cornerback position. On offense, this could lead to them adding a quarterback, or another pass catcher to pair alongside DJ Moore.
Here are the players the Panthers should consider with the ninth overall pick.
3. Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
The Panthers drafted quarterback Matt Corral with the 94th pick in the 2022 NFL draft. But the former Ole Miss quarterback was sidelined for his entire season with a foot injury suffered in the preseason.
With Corral set to return to the field next season, the Panthers could look to send him out and see what they have. Or they could choose to draft a quarterback. And with the ninth overall pick, they could potentially have their pick of several players with high upside. This includes Florida’s QB1 Anthony Richardson.
Richardson may very well be one of the most intriguing players in this year’s draft class. The 6-4, 232-pound quarterback is one of the most dominant forces in the nation. But he may not be ready to make an impact at the next level just yet.
Richardson burst onto the scene for the Gators offense during the 2021 season. In his limited appearances, he looked dominant. He finished the campaign throwing for 529 yards, six touchdowns, and five touchdowns. On the ground, he added 401 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Following his appearance in 2021, expectations were sky-high for Richardson heading into this past season. But in a Florida offense not loaded with weapons, he struggled at times.
He finished this past season throwing for 2,529 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. On the ground, he added 654 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.
When watching Richardson, it is clear that he has all the traits of an elite quarterback. Given time, he could develop into one of the NFL’s best. If the Panthers are willing to be patient, he could be the pick.
2. Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
TCU’s Quentin Johnston may very well be the best pass catcher in this year’s draft class. And based on what he showed this past season, his stock is at an all-time high. A pairing of him and DJ Moore could give the Panthers a dominant pass-catching core for the foreseeable future.
Over his three collegiate seasons, Johnston remained a consistent option on the TCU offense. He never finished a season with less than 400 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
But this past season, he took his game to new heights. Ultimately, he was a key contributor to the storybook season that TCU put together.
Johnston finished the 2022 season recording 60 receptions for 1,069 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
At 6-4 and 215 pounds, Johnston has the size to dominate opposing defenders. But he also has underrated speed that allows him to win anywhere on the field.
With his addition, the Panthers could have two legitimate WR1’s on their roster. If they are looking to surround their quarterback with as much talent as they can, this could be an intriguing option with the ninth overall pick.
1. Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
Kentucky’s Will Levis could ultimately be the best option for the Panthers with the ninth overall pick. The real question is if he will be available or not.
Much like Richarson, Levis has elite traits. He has a big arm, and can also make plays with his legs. But at times this past season, he struggled in ways that he hasn’t in years prior.
During the 2021 campaign, Levis looked dominant. He finished the year throwing for 2,826 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. On the ground, he added 376 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.
Following that campaign, many thought Levis would be elite once again in 2022. But instead, he took somewhat of a step back. He finished the year throwing for 2,406 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. On the ground, he added just two rushing touchdowns, and -107 rushing yards.
Levis has legitimate upside, and could very well be a reliable starter. He could also make an impact from day one. If he is on the board when the Panthers pick at nine, it is hard to not have him be the choice.