Assessing the Panthers’ potential starting quarterbacks with the first overall choice in the NFL Draft: C.J. Stroud is the most suitable candidate.

The Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers shocked the rest of the NFL on Friday night with a shocking announcement. The two teams reached a historic trade agreement that awarded Carolina the first pick in the April draft.

One of the best quarterback prospects in the draft is anticipated to be selected by Carolina with this pick. Given what they shown at the close of this past season, the Panthers might make a lot of noise in 2023 if they choose the correct choice.

After a 2-7 start, the Panthers finished the 2022 season with a 5-3 record. Carolina’s strong finish was fueled by a potent running game, led by Chuba Hubbard, and great play from Pro Bowler Brian Burns, cornerback Jaycee Horn and the rest of Carolina’s defense.

Here is our ranking of the quarterbacks the Panthers should choose with the first overall pick while they are still on the clock.

1. C.J. Stroud

The former standout for Ohio State ticks almost all the boxes for a top quarterback prospect. He is a healthy 6 feet 3 inches and 215 pounds. At Ohio State, Stroud had astonishing accuracy and completed 69.3 percent of his passes. During his time in Columbus, he was extremely prolific, tossing 85 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions.

Stroud is an aggressive rival. Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, two projected first-round choices, sat out, but Stroud still led the Buckeyes to an exciting comeback victory in the 2022 Rose Bowl, tossing for 573 yards and six touchdowns.

After getting hurt in a late-season game against Maryland last year, Stroud kept playing and kept playing well. In a loss to Michigan, Stroud passed for nearly 350 yards and two touchdowns. A month later, when Ohio State faced eventual national champion Georgia, Stroud threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns as Ohio State nearly pulled off the surprise.

With a clear pocket, C.J. Stroud has a career passer rating of 139.2, compared to 83.2 when it is not. With 348 yards passing and 4 touchdowns in a game against the greatest defense in CFB, Georgia, he dissuaded the skeptics. Stroud might still go first overall in the quarterback draft.

By Kyle Lindemann on January 26, 2023 (@LuckIsMadeFF).

At Ohio State, Stroud was criticized the most for his 0-2 record versus Michigan and his alleged refusal to run. Nonetheless, Stroud performed admirably in both of his games against Michigan, dispelling any concerns that he might not have been ready to run after getting wounded against Maryland.

2. Bryce Young

It wasn’t an easy choice, but Stroud beats Young, who many believe will be picked first in the draft, because to his stature and marginally higher accuracy.

The biggest question mark around Young in the run-up to the selection has been his size (5-foot-10 and 204 pounds, according to his NFL Combine measurements). Despite his height, Young somehow put up eye-popping stats while attending Alabama. Young, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2021, completed almost 66% of his passes while tossing 79 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions in his final two seasons at Alabama.

Like Stroud, Young graduated from college with a flourish. In Alabama’s Sugar Bowl victory over Kansas State, he completed five touchdown passes while hitting more than 71% of his targets. Young was Alabama’s starting quarterback for the most of his career, with a 24-4 record.

Young in the Sugar Bowl, Bryce

15/21 321 YDS 5 TD image courtesy of Twitter, 9tyebJBgre

— Overtime, December 31, 2022 (@overtime).

Young, who was praised for having a high football IQ, demonstrated his ability to make every throw while playing in college. He won over his comrades with his strong leadership abilities as well.

3. Will Levis

Levis is regarded by several members of the media, including Pete Prisco,  as the best quarterback prospect in the draft. Levis is the perfect height and weight at 6-foot-3. He is willing to test any defense with the cannon of a right arm he possesses. Also, he possesses good mobility, which let him use his legs to make plays when playing for Kentucky.

60-yard bombs shouldn’t seem that simple. I understand why the photo of Will Levis is so popular.

— Tyler Forness (@TheRealForno) February 18, 2023

The exclamation points Levis uses are quite clear. In college, he lost the ball 17 times and threw 25 interceptions. Levis’ propensity for mistakes was partially a result of his confidence. It could also at least in part be due to shaky pass protection and his own receivers deflecting his rocket throws.

There is one explanation for why the Panthers would ignore Levis’ errors. Late in the previous season, the Panthers relied heavily on their defense and running game to win the majority of their games. That will probably be their guiding principle in 2023, whoever occupies the center. Nonetheless, the Panthers can’t entirely conceal their quarterback, so it would be up to Levis to be more responsible with the ball when given the chance to throw.