Panthers between rock and hard place with No. 1 pick

The Carolina Panthers are torn between taking C.J. Stroud or Anthony Richardson at No. 1.

With the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers select either C.J. Stroud, quarterback, Ohio State or Anthony Richardson, quarterback, Florida.

If you did not read that in an extremely Roger Goodell voice, I can’t save you. Then again, I can’t save the Panthers from making the wrong decision at the top of the draft. Either way, they have made it abundantly clear that retreads are a thing of the past for them and new head coach Frank Reich. Short dudes be damned, as Bryce Young is so going to the Houston Texans at No. 2 overall now…

Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network reported Carolina is debating whether to use the first pick it traded up for with the Chicago Bears on Stroud or Richardson.

Stroud is the safer pick, but Richardson has the upside of noted Panthers legend Cam Newton.

NFL rumors: Carolina Panthers torn on C.J. Stroud or Anthony Richardson at No. 1

Look. I don’t know how much leverage the Panthers have in this situation. I highly doubt anyone will want to trade up to No. 1 with them now. The next most likely team to trade back has to be the Arizona Cardinals picking at No. 3. The question is if the team trading up with Arizona will be cool with settling for the third choice of quarterback after what Carolina and Houston decide to do.

It was a bold move for Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer to move up from No. 9 to No. 1, but I think we can all get behind it. The Panthers gave up a lot for this pick and as long as they nail it, nobody is going to care what it cost to do business in-conference with Chicago. For that reason, I tend to like the Panthers’ decision to move up, as opposed to the Bears moving down to No. 9…

Clearly, the safer pick in this exercise is Stroud. While I do like all four quarterbacks slated to go in the top 10, Stroud is No. 2 on my board behind Bryce Young. He is every bit the pocket-passing prototype you see coming out. I don’t think being propped up in the Ohio State system is a huge deal. My concern is I don’t know how close he is to hitting his ceiling. Will that be good enough?

From an upside standpoint, Richardson has everyone’s attention. His stellar showing at the NFL combine seemed to mask the fact he is not an accurate passer. Then again, Newton was not super accurate coming out, and people had major reservations about Josh Allen coming out of Wyoming. If Richardson hits his ceiling, then the Panthers will have their next Newton and times will be good.

Overall, you have to be firm in your decision if you’re Carolina. Wavering will not be tolerated. In short, no one is going to harpoon you if you play it safe with Stroud and he does not work out. If Richardson flourishes elsewhere, then you will have to learn to live with that decision to pass on him. However, if Richardson bombs, that’s bad news bears, especially if Young and Stroud shine.

Let’s just hope the Panthers do all the necessary homework to make the best decision for them.

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