Panthers draft Alabama QB Bryce Young No. 1 overall

Field Level Media

April 28, 2023 at 1:54 am.

Bryce Young answered the phone and Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper was on the other end of the line Thursday night, just before the Alabama quarterback was selected No. 1 in the 2023 NFL Draft.

“Are you ready,” Tepper asked, “to trade Sweet Home Alabama for Sweet Caroline?”

The Panthers kept the identity of the pick private outside of a group of scouts and front office executives, but there was no doubt among the franchise Young was the right choice.

Young was 24-3 as a starter at Alabama and won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore in 2021.

“He’s a winner,” Panthers coach Frank Reich said Thursday night. “Scott (Fitterer, Carolina’s GM,) really was clear from the start that this guy is a winner. He’s been the best player on the best team against the best competition since he was 8 years old.”

Young spent three seasons in Tuscaloosa, winning a 2020-21 national championship as a backup to 2022 first-rounder Mac Jones. He won the Heisman in his first season as Crimson Tide starter.

In 36 games for Alabama overall, he threw 80 touchdown passes and completed 624 of 949 passes (65.8 percent) for 8,356 yards. He holds numerous program records, including five games with five touchdown passes and single-season marks for passing touchdowns (47) and passing yards (4,872).

“It didn’t take much convincing,” Reich said Thursday. “When you watch the tape, Bryce Young is the best quarterback.”

One of Young’s co-captains, defensive end Will Anderson Jr., was the third overall pick, landing with the Houston Texans.

Young is praised for his ability to succeed off-script and find passing lanes with creativity and anticipation, but skeptics question Young’s size. He has far from the requisite body type of NFL quarterbacks at 5-foot-10, 204 pounds, which calls into question durability and longevity.

But the Panthers pointed to experience when downplaying the scouting strife of drafting a quarterback without prototypical height and weight.

Fitterer was with the Seattle Seahawks when the team selected 5-foot-11 Wisconsin prospect Russell Wilson in the third round, and Reich mentioned production and instincts as winning traits that far exceed size requirements. Fitterer said Seattle’s review of all game film found Wilson had three pass attempts batted down in his college career; Young had two.

The Panthers acquired the No. 1 pick by trading the No. 9 pick, their second-rounder (No. 61 overall), a 2024 first-round pick and a 2025 second-rounder to the Chicago Bears in March.

Quarterback was the No. 1 offseason priority for Tepper, who attended pro day and private workouts with Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud. The Texans selected Stroud with the second overall pick.

The top quarterback on the Panthers’ depth chart when voluntary workouts began last week was Andy Dalton, ahead of 2022 third-round pick Matt Corral.

Tepper hired Reich as head coach in January, and another former NFL quarterback, Josh McCown, joined the staff to work with quarterbacks.

Carolina failed with two reclamation projects: Sam Darnold, who was acquired from the Jets and was drafted third overall in 2018, and Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 pick in the same draft acquired from the Cleveland Browns.

The Panthers went 7-10 last season and three quarterbacks — Darnold, Mayfield and PJ Walker — attempted at least 100 passes. The trio combined for 16 touchdown passes and 16 turnovers (12 interceptions).

The last Carolina starting quarterback with more than 15 touchdown passes in a season was Kyle Allen (17) in 2019.

Nine teams in the modern draft era (1967) have drafted first overall and made the playoffs the next season. The last time the Panthers drafted first, Carolina selected quarterback Cam Newton from Auburn in 2011. Newton was NFL MVP in 2015 and led the team to Super Bowl 50, a loss to the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning.

Newton was still Carolina’s quarterback in 2017-18, the last time the Panthers reached the playoffs.

Young is the fourth QB in five years to win the Heisman Trophy and be selected with the No. 1 pick. He becomes the fourth Crimson Tide player to roll from Heisman winner to the first round of the NFL draft since running back Mark Ingram (2009 Heisman, 2011 first-round pick of the New Orleans Saints at No. 28).

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