Carolina Panthers hit the reset button in CBS Sports 2023 mock draft

(David Banks-USA TODAY Sports) C.J. Stroud
(David Banks-USA TODAY Sports) C.J. Stroud /

Hitting the reset button is almost guaranteed for the Carolina Panthers in 2023, which was reflected in a recent mock draft from CBS Sports.

It doesn’t take a nuclear physicist to figure out that big changes are coming to the Carolina Panthers next spring. Firing Matt Rhule and trading away Christian McCaffrey was the clearest sign those remaining were looking to the future with the prospect of a new head coach and a fresh injection of talented prospects from the college ranks after a disastrous three years under the former Baylor man.

One of the many failings of Rhule’s tenure was his inability to successfully evaluate the quarterback position. He chose Teddy Bridgewater instead of a daring trade-up for Justin Herbert and passed on Justin Fields in favor of acquiring Sam Darnold from the New York Jets.

Consistency and a long-term plan under center were sorely lacking in equal measure. The Panthers did select Matt Corral at No. 94 overall in 2022, but a broken foot means we might not ever see the Ole Miss product start for the Panthers with a new regime coming into the fold.

Carolina Panthers select C.J. Stroud in CBS Sports mock draft

Hitting the reset button is almost guaranteed at football’s most important position. A notion that was shared by Josh Edwards of CBS Sports, who had the Panthers taking promising signal-caller C.J. Stroud at No. 3 overall in his recent 2023 NFL mock draft.

"“The Panthers probably did not expect to have the opportunity to select Stroud, but they can restart the quarterback finances with a rookie. Who Carolina selects to lead the franchise next will offer more clues as to which player may interest them.”"

The two players selected before Stroud in Edwards’ mock were Will Anderson Jr. and Bryce Young, who went to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans respectively. Stroud is not a bad consolation prize by any stretch of the imagination and is one of only two quarterbacks who look ready to start on Day 1 at the next level.

Stroud looks to be putting together a strong Heisman Trophy charge this season despite being scrutinized more than most. Some have been skeptical about his performance levels, but the Ohio State prospect is held to higher standards and every throw will be examined heavily moving forward before the all-important assessment process begins.

There isn’t much separating Stroud and Young, in all honesty. Both look like franchise prospects to build around, so as long as one is there for the Panthers, it’ll be alright on the night.

Whether the Panthers will be in a position to select Stroud is another matter. Steve Wilks and his roster are fighting hard for their job security, so their win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 10 puts them at No. 5 overall currently and potentially out of reach unless other teams go in alternative routes.

That could complicate things in the long run. But that’s the last thing on Wilks’s mind as he looks to get Carolina out of a deeply concerning slump.

Stroud looks to have all the tools needed to make a real go of things in the NFL. There is a stigma surrounding Buckeyes’ quarterbacks and how well they transition to a professional environment that cannot be ignored, but Fields’ progress this season could shift the narrative.

There’s plenty of football left. But it’s not hard to see why Panthers fans are looking way ahead given what they’ve witnessed in 2022.

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