As the kickoff of the 2023 NFL Draft draws closer, the number of mock drafts has proliferated. Experts from across the field have begun to reveal their final (or near-final) projections for how one of the league’s marquee offseason events will unfold. The accuracy of those predictions remains unclear, however.
Several notable draftniks have posted their official mock drafts, including their expectations for the Carolina Panthers. Here, we break down what each expert says about the first- and second-round selections.
Kiper/McShay dueling mock: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Peter King: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Matt Miller: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Ryan Wilson: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
PFF: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Adam Caplan: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Chad Reuter: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
In recent weeks, Bryce Young has become the nearly unanimous projection for the Panthers. How one feels about the Alabama signal-caller invariably comes down to the degree of concern for his size. As the draft broadcast will repeat numerous times, Young measured in at 5-foot-10 and just over 200 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine, far from the prototypical stature for a franchise QB. Still, he excels in most other areas and comes with an unimpeachable pedigree.
C.J. Stroud, the one non-Young projection listed here, deserves some discussion. He towers over Young and comes with a similarly impressive résumé. He also played the best game of his college career in his final outing, Ohio State’s near upset of the eventual national champions in the College Football Playoff.
Still, if Carolina head coach Frank Reich feels comfortable with Young’s diminutive stature, he probably makes the most sense here. Reich has done more with less under center, and Young comes out of the box with more polish than the other passers in this rookie class.
Kiper/McShay dueling mock: Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee
Matt Miller: Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee
Ryan Wilson: Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State
Chad Reuter: Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State
The Panthers need to bolster the receiving corps around whichever quarterback they take at No. 1 overall. After dealing away star wideout D.J. Moore in the trade that took the franchise into the top draft slot, the offense features little in the way of pass-catching talent. Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman, the two Tennessee standouts, would have the opportunity for immediate contribution. Still, both come out of an offensive system that features atypical receiver splits and roles by NFL standards, requiring significant adjustments from both.
As for Will McDonald IV, he could provide a useful counterbalance to Brian Burns, the Panthers’ top pass rusher. He has spent most of the draft process pegged as a first-round talent, so landing him on Day 2 would represent something of a boon.