Would the Carolina Panthers seriously consider taking Trey Lance or Justin Fields at No. 8 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft if either were available?
The Carolina Panthers are flirting with the idea of taking a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft despite their recent acquisition of Sam Darnold from the New York Jets. This would be an absolutely jaw-dropping move whichever way one looks at it, but general manager Scott Fitterer’s desire to take the best player available if he thinks it will benefit the franchise long-term cannot be ignored.
There are so many smokescreens floating around at this time of year it is hard to keep up. The Panthers presumably didn’t give up three selections over the next two years to land Darnold and not give him the best possible chance to succeed. But the intrigue of someone like Justin Fields or Trey Lance falling into their laps would undoubtedly lead to a frank discussion in the war room and the phone ringing off the hook in the process.
Much will depend on what the Atlanta Falcons do at No. 4. They can take a quarterback, trade down for a king’s ransom, or use the pick to get arguably the best prospect coming out of the college ranks this year in Kyle Pitts, who could revolutionize the tight end position if he reaches his ceiling.
There are also the San Francisco 49ers to consider following their trade up to No. 3. But it is growing increasingly likely that they are getting set to send shockwaves through the NFL by selecting Alabama signal-caller Mac Jones, according to multiple reports.
It doesn’t appear likely that the Cincinnati Bengals or Miami Dolphins are in the quarterback market after taking one last year. The Detroit Lions also recently traded for Jared Goff from the Los Angeles Rams, so they’ll need to boost their options at wide receiver following the departures of Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones in free agency.
There appears little doubt that someone like the New England Patriots or the Chicago Bears are going to try and make a move should the opportunity arise.
Carolina has stated they are more than willing to move back for the right offer and have already spoken to five teams about the possibility. But should someone with the proven production of Fields or the undeniable upside of Lance still be on the board and they are Fitterer’s best player available at the time, they might just shock everybody and pull the trigger.
Carolina Panthers can’t guarantee Sam Darnold will shine.
This is sure to do more harm than good in the short term.
But the benefits over the next few years could be substantial.
The Panthers got Darnold to the organization, which is great and could be worth its weight in gold. However, there is just no telling as to whether this is going to work out considering the former first-round pick’s struggles in New York and if things don’t turn out as expected, Carolina will be back to square one next year.
That wouldn’t be the case if they drafted Fields or Lance. Having them sit for a year behind Darnold would probably welcome for their development, although considering how much football the North Dakota State star has missed over the last couple of years, one would think he’d need to be involved somewhere at the earliest possible opportunity.
People seem to be ignoring the fact Fields torched Clemson and projected No. 1 pick Trevor Larence in the college football playoffs and has put together two years of exceptional production at Ohio State. The over criticism is going to make sure someone lands a potential steal if the Niners do go with Jones, and he is a hard pass for the Panthers despite their trade for Darnold.
Realistically speaking, trading back for more capital or selecting a franchise left tackle like Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater should be considered more likely.
Neither decision would be a poor one by any stretch of the imagination. But Fitterer did state there was a quarterback the team is excited about in this class, and if the unnamed individual is available then it might force a big turnaround in their thinking.