The Carolina Panthers, for the second time, are in possession of the first overall pick in the NFL Draft. The last time, they acquired it by being God-awful and winning it on merit, or lack thereof. This time, they traded for it.
In order to prize the pick off the Chicago Bears, the Panthers had to pay a king's ransom. The compensation included the 9th and 61st overall picks in this draft, in addition to a first rounder in 2024, a second rounder in 2025, and wide receiver D.J. Moore.
Current consensus has the Panthers picking Ohio State football quarterback C.J. Stroud with that first overall selection. Let's dive into a few reasons Stroud is a fantastic fit in the Queen City.
The most obvious one is Stroud's talent. It's long been thought, for really the past two years, that one of he or Bryce Young would be taken first overall. The two of them were, as NFL Draft prospects, head and shoulders above the competition.
That gap has closed for certain, with NFL scouts drooling over Will Levis, Anthony Richardson, and Hendon Hooker as well. However, it remains that C.J. Stroud is one of the truly elite prospects at his position.
Richardson, Levis, and Hooker are all fantastic players, but they're widely considered more of a gamble than Stroud and Young. That's due to Stroud and Young being perceived as having incredibly high ceilings matched with high floors as well.
2. Panthers Roster Building
It's no secret that the single best gift a team can have in the modern NFL is an elite quarterback on a rookie deal. They're incredibly hard to find, but if you can get one, it's franchise-altering.
To be able to get All-Pro level quarterbacking for dirt cheap allows you to spend immensely on every other position. Loading up the roster as a whole with talent, rather than being forced to play the draft roulette every year on edge rushers and receivers for example.
If the Panthers take Stroud- and if he pans out like many think he can- he would provide the Panthers with the freedom of spending they desperately need. It's no secret the Panthers have been a black hole for quarterbacks recently.
It's not lost to history that at one point, the Panthers were paying four quarterbacks, three of which weren't with the team.
Cam Newton's replacement, Teddy Bridgewater, was still getting paid when Newton returned. Both of them were still getting paid when their replacement Sam Darnold arrived. All three of them were still getting paid when they drafted Matt Corral.
Not ideal, to say the least!
1. Long Term Future
“If Stroud pans out” is a phrase I continue to use for good reason, because the draft is a crapshoot. It's no secret that of the just under 300 players drafted, only a small handful will be in the league long enough to receive a second contract, regardless of who gives it.
This applies to everyone, from first rounders to Mr. Irrelevant. This pick is incredibly important for the Panthers for one reason. They've hitched their long-term future to it. Trading two first round picks, an additional second, and your best receiver is a massive gamble.
Jobs will be at stake should that gamble fail. Not only that, but if it fails, it could set the franchise back for a decade as they look to get out of the draft capital and salary cap pit they will have dug themselves.
However, if the pick is C.J. Stroud, and if he is what he is thought to be, we are talking championship potential for years to come. The ghosts of 2015 continue to haunt the Carolina Panthers, and yet, C.J. Stroud may just be the man to exorcise those demons.