Why the Carolina Panthers should draft a quarterback at No. 8 overall

Nick Halden
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports) Trey Lance
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports) Trey Lance /

The Carolina Panthers have the No. 8 overall selection in this year’s draft, with plenty of rumors swirling as to what they may do with the pick. 

Don’t overthink this. The Carolina Panthers should draft a quarterback and view Sam Darnold‘s last year of his rookie deal as a prove-it one.

When the Panthers dealt for Darnold, many viewed them out of the quarterback chase in the upcoming draft. With five signal-callers expected to go in the first round, Carolina is likely going to have to make a tough decision if one prospect does happen to fall into their laps.

Darnold is coming out of absolute dysfunction after a torrid time with the New York Jets. While the former USC star is still just 23-years-old and is getting the benefit of the doubt as he looks to make a better go of things in a different environment, quarterbacks are currency in the NFL.

Even if Darnold lights it up in 2021 for the Panthers, they’d only have him for one more season on his fifth-year option. Considering this or even the possibility of the player struggling in a new offense it is a no-brainer for Carolina to draft a quarterback if the right one is still there at No. 8.

Carolina Panthers might have someone fall to No. 8.

The first three picks in the draft are going to be quarterbacks, meaning there will be two left with four teams on the clock before the Panthers pick.

The Cincinnati Bengals aren’t going to pick a quarterback at No. 5. They are going to get Joe Burrow some help, they believe in him and have absolutely no reason to bring in competition.

At No. 4 is the Atlanta Falcons. After re-working Matt Ryan’s contract, it is hard to believe they will take a swing on a quarterback despite the obvious temptation to get a long-term option staring them in the face.

This leaves the Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins picking ahead of the Panthers and both teams are wild cards.

Every sign points to the Dolphins not believing in Tua Tagovailoa, yet it is hard to believe they will draft a signal-caller without giving their 2020 first-round pick one more season. Detroit has Jared Goff but with their current coaching and front office situation, it is anyone’s guess.

Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson are thought to be the first two picks in the draft. What the San Francisco 49ers are going to do at No. 3 is very much up in the air, leaving Justin Fields, Mac Jones, and Trey Lance in the dark as to where they are going to end up.

If Fields falls all the way No. 8, the Panthers would be crazy not to draft him. While it is tough to tell how far he has fallen with all the smoke and mirrors surrounding this year’s class, it does seem definitive the Ohio State prospect has dropped out of the top three for some unknown reason.

I believe Fields to be the second most talented quarterback in his class. He has all the tools and seems to be a lot closer to being NFL-ready than Jones or Lance.

Bringing Fields into their quarterback room is a perfect decision for a rebuilding team. Lance is much the same story. He has a high upside and could sit behind Darnold for a year or more.

Carolina Panthers are not a piece away from Super Bowl contention.

Viewing Darnold as a potential rental isn’t a knock against the former Jet, simply the reality of the position the Panthers are in. Drafting a non-quarterback isn’t going to be the missing piece to get them in Super Bowl contention.

This isn’t a team that is simply a move away.

If Fields or Lance are still sitting on the board when the Panthers are on the clock, they would be crazy not to take a chance on a young quarterback who could turn around the franchise if Darnold cannot.

Even if Darnold proves to be the guy in Carolina they can extend him and have a valuable trading chip in a young quarterback.

This is a win-win situation for Carolina. I have long argued drafting quarterbacks as projects or to compete is never a bad move unless you have a Patrick Mahomes or a Tom Brady.

Next. Carolina Panthers pre-draft 2021 record and division projections. dark

Quarterback is the most valuable position for a reason. If the Panthers have a chance to take Lance or Fields with their first-rounder, they will be making a mistake not taking a swing.