Can QB C.J. Stroud emerge as consensus Panthers pick in 2023?

(Kyle Robertson/The Columbus Dispatch via IMAGN Content Services) C.J. Stroud
(Kyle Robertson/The Columbus Dispatch via IMAGN Content Services) C.J. Stroud /

Can quarterback prospect C.J. Stroud emerge as the consensus first-round pick for the Carolina Panthers during the 2023 NFL Draft?

Rivalry week is one of college football’s most anticipated occasions. It’s also something the Carolina Panthers will be keeping a close eye on with a view to improving their fortunes during the all-important 2023 NFL Draft.

Unless the Panthers go on a remarkable winning run down the stretch, they’ll likely have a top-three selection in 2023. Steve Wilks won’t care all that much about draft standing right now, but fans are already casting their eyes on which prospects could come into the fold next spring.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that quarterback is going to be Carolina’s top priority. Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and P.J. Walker are all out of contract and Matt Corral’s broken foot means the jury is still out about whether or not he can become a consistent NFL starter long-term.

Carolina Panthers should keep a close eye on C.J. Stroud

The top-two players at the position look a class apart from the rest. Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud look like Day 1 starters with franchise-caliber credentials, but one cannot dismiss the upside of players such as Anthony Richardson either.

All eyes will be on Stroud this Saturday as he leads Ohio State against Michigan. One of college football’s most storied rivalries has added spice this year, with both programs occupying playoff positions as it stands following outstanding campaigns to date.

If Stroud can perform with the spotlight glaring and pull the Buckeyes to victory, it’s only going to help his draft stock. Something that could see the signal-caller become Carolina’s primary focus for good measure.

This is a sentiment echoed by Brad Weiss of FanSided, who recently mocked Stroud to the Panthers after the Houston Texans went with Young at No. 1 overall. A decision that the writer feels should be relatively easy for the front office in this scenario.

"“Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold were mistakes for the franchise, so there is no doubt they will be going quarterback if they remain at No. 2 come draft night. With this pick, and Bryce Young off the board, the Panthers should run up to the podium to select C.J. Stroud, a talented quarterback from Ohio State. Stroud can get the offense moving with his arm, and his legs, and in Carolina, he could be the best quarterback prospect since Cam Newton.”"

Stroud’s been unfairly criticized this season and there are some who are calling into account the transition of Ohio State quarterbacks into the pros. Justin Fields is shifting the narrative slightly, but scouting the player and not the helmet is the only way Carolina should approach such an important decision.

They need a franchise quarterback. Someone that the Panthers can build around on a rookie contract en route to becoming a contender in the not-too-distant future.

There isn’t much left for Stroud to prove, in all honesty. But he won’t want one of his last impressions at the collegiate level to be losing against Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines.

A strong outing this weekend could cement Stroud’s status as the consensus Panthers draft pick if they held firm at No. 2 overall. However, the Texans will also be keeping a close eye on developments as it looks like they have given up on Davis Mills already.

An interesting afternoon and assessment process await Stroud. And those in power within the Panthers will be keeping a close eye on his every move.

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