Carolina Panthers throw huge curveball in 2023 NFL mock draft

(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports) Quentin Johnston
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports) Quentin Johnston /

The Carolina Panthers have a need at quarterback, but a recent 2023 NFL mock draft threw a huge curveball into the mix before the evaluation process.

Steve Wilks laid his cards on the table earlier this week when he declared an intent to find a long-term solution at the quarterback position providing he becomes head coach long-term. This is a dire need for the Carolina Panthers and one they should address as a matter of urgency no matter who’s at the helm in 2023.

A series of disappointing trades under Matt Rhule held this team back considerably. It was also one of the many reasons why team owner David Tepper ended this expensive experiment way ahead of time.

There is a lot of evaluation to come in the near future before Carolina’s final draft board is set. But considering their recent history and how tight finances are currently, it would be a shock if they didn’t go down the college route with the prospect of another top-10 selection in sight.

Carolina could be out of the running for top prospects such as Will Levis, C.J. Stroud, and Bryce Young. Gambling on Anthony Richardson’s elite traits is another option many analysts expect the Panthers to consider and there is also the return of Matt Corral to consider in this complex equation.

Carolina Panthers select Quentin Johnston in 2023 NFL mock draft

All options are on the table right now. Something that was reflected in a recent mock draft from Walter Cherepinsky of, who threw a huge curveball into the mix from No. 8 overall.

Instead of bringing in a quarterback, this particular mock draft had the Panthers taking Quentin Johnston, the supremely gifted wide receiver from TCU. This provides Carolina with a dynamic playmaker to put with D.J. Moore and Terrace Marshall Jr., who’s made fantastic strides since Rhule’s removal.

"“The Panthers need a franchise quarterback, but with the top three players at the position off the board, they’ll need to look elsewhere and then select a signal-caller in the second round. They could give that quarterback a dynamic threat across from D.J. Moore. Scouts are smitten with Quentin Johnston, who has drawn comparisons to Julio Jones.”"

Johnston is arguably the best wideout emerging from the college ranks next year. His production is a key reason behind the Hornfrogs’ rise to the college football playoffs, which saw the prospect haul in 53 receptions for 903 receiving yards and five touchdowns from 12 games.

This would be a tremendous acquisition, albeit a luxury. It’s also worth remembering that any good wide receiver needs consistency at the quarterback spot – something the Panthers don’t possess despite Sam Darnold’s recent resurgence.

Until the complication under center gets solved, the Panthers will only get so far. In the second round of Cherepinsky’s mock, he went with Tanner McKee out of Stanford rather than Richardson and Spencer Rattler, who was shockingly placed higher than the Florida product in this scenario.

Again, there are a ton of unknowns regarding the Panthers’ thought process. For now, at least.

Johnston has all the tools normally associated with highly-productive wideouts at the next level, but this comes down to positional value. After passing on moves for Justin Herbert and Justin Fields under Rhule, this is the time Carolina needs to shoot its shot.

If that means reaching for a quarterback, so be it. But this flip-flopping with underperforming veterans down on their luck has to stop.

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