Not so fast. The Carolina Panthers emitted seismic waves through the NFL when they sent multiple picks and coveted wide receiver DJ Moore to the Chicago Bears for the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Moving from No. 9 to the top of the board is something a team does for a franchise pillar, say a quarterback. But how does the organization expect their new guy to fair when they just traded their best offensive player? It is questionable logic and not very good optics for a franchise that could often use some positive press.
However, in what is quickly becoming a convoluted plot well-suited for a Christopher Nolan motion picture, Carolina is reportedly not ruling out trading the pick to slide back down the draft order, according to the Charlotte Observer’s Scott Fowler.
This unconventional maneuver would only come into play if owner David Tepper and general manager Scott Fitterer are infatuated with multiple quarterbacks. They could trade down a spot or two, regain some of the draft capital they just lost and take the best remaining prospect on their list. In their previous No. 9 slot, the Panthers were at risk of not getting any of the projected top four quarterbacks. Now, they have their preference.
But if they have no preference, why pull the trigger on a blockbuster deal more than a month before the draft? These are the questions fans are asking as they simultaneously exhibit frustration, confusion and some excitement, too. Those conflicting emotions would be in overdrive if another big trade is finalized.
With Carolina feeling bold, let’s break down the three best NFL Draft trades for the 1st pick.
3. Panthers trade No. 1 pick to Titans for No. 11 Pick and more
This is a move that would depend on how free agency unfolds. It is plausible that one or two teams in the top 10 acquire Lamar Jackson and Jimmy Garoppolo. That would afford the Panthers some flexibility and add more incentive to trade down. Even as far down as No. 11 where the Tennessee Titans currently reside.
It is always difficult to gauge what Mike Vrabel and company have cooking, but it does not seem like their future quarterback situation is concrete. The Ryan Tannehill era has probably run its course, with his best years likely in the rearview mirror. The Jacksonville Jaguars are primed to overtake the AFC South for the next several years with Trevor Lawrence at the helm. The Titans may need to look to the Panthers’ No. 1 pick as a means to keep pace.
Wide Receiver Treylon Burks missed some time last season but flashed promise when he was on the field. Pairing him with one of the quarterback prospects makes too much sense. New general manager Ran Carthon will need to make it worth the Panthers’ while, though.
That means the Titans will part with No. 11, a 2024 first-rounder, a 2023 second round pick and probably a mid-round pick. If they still land one of their top guys, the Panthers can sleep soundly trading the 1st pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
2. Panthers acquire No. 4 Pick and two second rounders from Colts
Of the all the candidates vying for a franchise quarterback, the Indianapolis Colts might have the most daring owner in Jim Irsay. His team has been stuck in quarterback purgatory since Andrew Luck abruptly retired. Philip Rivers was a success, but both Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan have been flops that burned plenty of draft capital. It is time to return back to the place that has produced the most favorable results in the franchise’s history- the NFL Draft.
The Panthers mirror the Colts in many ways. Both teams watched their star signal-callers have meteoric rises before injuries ultimately halted their on-field success. Indy was much better at compensating for deficiencies under center until a 4-12 campaign last season. The similarities continue with Frank Reich now manning the sidelines in Carolina.
The common ground should carry over into April 27th. Sam Ehlinger was not particularly impressive in his brief starting stint, giving the Colts another reason to trade up and draft either Bryce Young or CJ Stroud. They need a firm direction, and while it is still a gamble, the organization needs to try a more conventional route.
The Panthers could deal away No. 1 for No. 4, No. 36 and a 2024 third-rounder to the Colts. Both teams still attempt to find their savior.
1. Panthers trade No. 1 to Raiders for No. 7 and future first-rounder
The Las Vegas Raiders currently reside as the Panthers’ unfortunate neighbors in the land of bad optics. They moved on from Derek Carr, but do not seem to have a succession plan that inspires a lot of confidence from fans. They can take a quarterback at No. 7, but there is guarantee it will be the one they have circled on their scouting reports.
Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler might be compelled to give Scott Fitterer a call ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft. It has been a long time since the team has gone after a blue-chip prospect at QB. In this still new Vegas era, a big splash is expected and probably even encouraged. The Panthers can oblige.
It is a risk for Carolina to move down to seven, but if one of the other teams near the top fill their QB need in free agency then the front office will still have decent chance at securing someone they like. The Raiders first-rounder this year and next along with a future second rounder could be very tempting for a team clearly intent on rebuilding their roster.
Whether or not the Panthers make a trade at the NFL Draft, they must use the 1st selection to catapult themselves into a better future.