Carolina Panthers 7-round 2023 NFL mock draft: Strike it lucky edition

(Brianna Paciorka/The Knoxville News-Sentinel via IMAGN Content Services) Byron Young
(Brianna Paciorka/The Knoxville News-Sentinel via IMAGN Content Services) Byron Young /
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Carolina Panthers
(John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports) C.J. Stroud /

Carolina Panthers select C.J. Stroud

  • Quarterback | Ohio State Buckeyes

Sam Darnold’s recent improvements since returning to the starting lineup do not detract from the bigger picture. The Carolina Panthers are in desperate need of a franchise quarterback and must acquire someone with these capabilities in 2023.

Good quarterbacks don’t become free agents very often. Given the Panthers’ poor record in the trade market, the wisest move would be to take a promising signal-caller from the college ranks and build around a rookie deal.

Much will depend on what occurs in Week 18 at the New Orleans Saints in terms of draft standing. But the top three or four quarterbacks could be within reach either in the top 10 or via a daring trade-up should the opportunity arise.

In this simulator, the Panthers get a gift from the football gods when C.J. Stroud falls into their laps. How likely this is after the prospect’s exceptional performance in the college football playoffs against Georgia remains to be seen, but Carolina should not hesitate if he makes it this far down the pecking order.

Stroud’s poise, accuracy, and ability to make every available throw under pressure make him one of the standout prospects under center this year. This is matched by impressive pocket footwork and creativity to make things happen out of nothing.

If the Panthers want to move up for Stroud, they have the tools to strike. If not, then someone like Anthony Richardson or Will Levis comes into the equation.