Cam Newton clone linked to the Carolina Panthers in 2023 draft

(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports) Anthony Richardson
(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports) Anthony Richardson /

The Carolina Panthers could target a Cam Newton clone, Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson, in the 2023 NFL Draft according to ESPN analyst Todd McShay.

Even though the Carolina Panthers traded up to No. 94 overall and selected Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral during the 2022 NFL Draft, there remains some skepticism about whether the signal-caller can become the team’s long-term option.

Corral has a lot of nice traits that can be developed into something more. He also appears to be a superb fit for Ben McAdoo’s scheme and the offensive coordinator was highly influential in the Panthers going in this particular direction.

Carolina still has Sam Darnold and his fully guaranteed $18.85 million on the books. But it would be a major disappointment if Corral didn’t show enough to push the USC product in training camp and perhaps even unseat him from the starting role if he continues to regress and demonstrate the same critical flaws that have blighted his time in the league.

However, this is obviously a fluid situation.

The Panthers haven’t completely ruled out a move for yet another veteran in the trade market depending on how things unfold during the early stages of offseason workouts. General manager Scott Fitterer was reluctant to part ways with his top-end draft capital in 2023 – which is down in no small part to the exceptional group of quarterbacks entering the league next year.

If the 2022 prospects were often criticized, the same cannot be said of an outstanding-looking 2023 contingent that he headlined by Alabama’s Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud out of Ohio State.

As many as 10 could be given first-round grades if everything goes according to plan during the upcoming campaign. Something that reportedly put a few teams off from taking the plunge on the likes of Corral, Malik Willis, and Desmond Ridder until late on Day 2.

There is a lot of football to be played and evaluation to take place between now and then. But some draft experts are already tipping Carolina to go with a signal-caller once again next spring.

Carolina Panthers select Anthony Richardson in Todd McShay’s first 2023 mock draft

One such individual is ESPN’s Todd McShay, who had the Panthers selecting Anthony Richardson a No. 6 overall in his first 2022 mock draft. The quarterback is a physical specimen in a similar mold to Cam Newton, who remains an iconic figure in Carolina and someone that will forever have a special place in franchise history.

"“The Panthers should start scouting the 2023 signal-callers. I’m not so sure they view Matt Corral as a long-term option, and Sam Darnold will be off the books after this season. Plus, Carolina could have a new regime in place, especially if it’s picking this early again. Now, Richardson is a huge projection — the 6-foot-4, 236-pound passer played in just eight games and started once last year — and has some turnover issues. But he’s extremely talented and poised for a breakout season in his first as a full-time starter.”"

As McShay stated, Richardson is inexperienced and incredibly raw. However, the upside is nothing short of phenomenal and if he puts the sort of season together that many predict at Florida in 2022, then he will be one of college football’s hottest properties as a result.

The similarities between Newton and Richardson are there for all to see. Both players are electrifying running the football, possessing explosiveness and physicality that is a nightmare for defenses to scheme against.

There is plenty of work to do for Richardson in the coming months. His passing accuracy needs to improve and decision-making is also something that could do with serious refinement if the prospect is planning to declare for the draft ahead of time.

Newton has similar flaws coming out of Auburn. But he proved to be more than worthy of the No. 1 overall selection in 2011 – picking Carolina up from obscurity into the national spotlight and legitimate Super Bowl contention.

Not to mention winning an NFL MVP award.

Richardson has to go up a few levels before he can be considered in the same stratosphere as Newton – a Heisman Trophy winner who steered the Tigers to a memorable national championship triumph in his one and only season with the program.

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There is every chance Richardson might stay with the Gators depending on how things play out when competitive action resumes. But the Panthers and others across the league will likely be keeping a close eye on the player’s progress.