KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Carolina Panthers now have the player they hope can lead them back to the top of the NFL.
With the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Panthers chose Bryce Young, a quarterback out of the University of Alabama.
It’s a moment Panthers fans and NFL analysts have been waiting for ever since Carolina traded for the number one pick in a deal with the Chicago Bears in March.
With Young at the helm, the Panthers are aspiring to return back to relevancy. The Panthers have missed the playoffs five years in a row and a large part of the team’s struggles have been due to quarterback play.
Young played two years at Alabama where he threw for 8,356 yards, 80 touchdowns, and completed 65.8% of his passes. Several analysts predicted him to be taken first overall due to his dynamic playmaking abilities.
Carolina’s front office has been aggressive this offseason, adding a head coach with playoff experience, Frank Reich, and a slew of top-level talent to ensure their top-picked quarterback has a team around him ready to win.
Bryce Young through the years
Last year, the Panthers finished 7-10 after a topsy-turvy year that saw a head coaching change, numerous trades, and a disgruntled fan base.
The 2022 Panthers started 1-5 and looked to be one of the league’s worst teams. Head coach Matt Rhule was fired after Week 5 when it seemed his third year with the team was a bust. A week later, Carolina traded away running back Christian McCaffrey, arguably the team’s best player.
Despite the setbacks, interim head coach Steve Wilks was able to rally the team back to a 6-6 record in Carolina’s last 12 games. Wilks even had the team in position to win the NFC South title in a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 17. But the Panthers lost the game despite leading 21-10 in the fourth quarter.
Reich was brought on after a coaching search despite many hoping Wilks would keep the head coaching position. Reich coached the Indianapolis Colts for four years and led them to the playoffs twice.
After obtaining Reich, the Panthers added running back Miles Sanders, receivers Adam Thielen and DJ Chark, tight end Hayden Hurst, defensive tackle Shy Tuttle, and quarterback Andy Dalton to solidify a strong free agency period.
The 2023 Panthers will certainly be different than the 2022 Panthers but if the team wants to find further success, much work is going to need to be done on the team’s defense, which ranked 22nd in yards allowed last season.
With Dalton in the mix, it’s unclear if Young will start right away or ease his way into the lineup with Dalton starting the season’s initial games.
Young is the first quarterback the Panthers have chosen in the first round since Cam Newton, who coincidentally is the only other player Carolina has used a No. 1 pick on. Newton stuck with the Panthers for nine seasons and earned pro bowl and all-pro honors during his career. He guided Carolina to Super Bowl 50, the second title game in franchise history.
The only other quarterback chosen by the Panthers in the first round of the draft was Kerry Collins in 1995 with the No. 5 pick during Carolina’s expansion year. Collins coincidentally backed up Reich to begin the year but went on to become the team’s starter for a few years before being traded away and spending a lengthy career with multiple teams.