Panthers get worst-case scenario in The 33rd Team mock draft

(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) Quentin Johnston
(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) Quentin Johnston /

A worst-case scenario surrounding the Carolina Panthers emerged from The 33rd Team’s latest 2023 NFL mock draft.

It’s no secret that the Carolina Panthers will examine all the top quarterback prospects emerging from the college ranks in 2023. No longer can the team gamble draft capital on veterans unwanted elsewhere, especially with a new coaching staff coming into the fold after Matt Rhule’s firing.

Of course, there might be a temptation to acquire someone like Derek Carr or Ryan Tannehill should the opportunity arise. But the smart move from Carolina’s perspective is to draft and develop – a notion that was seconded by general manager Scott Fitterer during his recent media availability.

Fitterer clearly wanted to keep all his options open and not give anything away. Even if the intentions to seek additional reinforcements couldn’t be clearer looking at the Panthers’ bigger picture moving forward.

"“Eventually, we do need a guy that we need to draft and develop. We need someone homegrown that’s going to be here over a long period of time. Whether that’s Matt (Corral), whether it’s Sam (Darnold) that we keep here, who’s still a young quarterback, or someone else. We’re going to keep all of our options open and do what’s best for this team.”"

The turnaround under Steve Wilks gave everyone a morale boost and true hope for the first time in years. It didn’t come with an unlikely NFC South title win and also put the Panthers at No. 9 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft to further complicate matters.

Carolina Panthers avoid QB temptation in The 33rd Team mock draft

Unless the Panthers plan on trading up, it’s a waiting game. And a recent mock draft from The 33rd Team presented what could be Carolina’s worst-case scenario in pursuit of a new signal-caller.

With Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, and Will Levis all off the board, The 33rd Team’s scouting department projected the Panthers to avoid drafting Anthony Richardson so high and focus their attention on boosting their pass-catching options, instead.

The pick? TCU’s standout wide receiver Quentin Johnston.

"“Christian McCaffery finished the season as Carolina’s fourth-leading receiver, and he only played in six games before being traded. The 6-foot-4 Johnston is the most physically talented WR in this class with the ability to turn any play into a big gain. His yards per catch during his three college seasons? 22.1, 19.2 and 18.1.”"

Pairing Johnson with D.J. Moore and Terrace Marshall Jr. gives Carolina a wide receiver trio with limitless potential. Just who’d be throwing them the football is another matter.

Johnston’s route-running is outstanding. This is matched by a wide catch radius and eye-popping physicality that makes him a significant threat all over the field.

When Johnston gets going, he’s almost unstoppable. But unless Carolina finally solves its complex riddle under center, expectations would be tempered for any wideout operating within a new offensive system.

This draft saw Stroud fall to the Las Vegas Raiders at No. 7 overall. The Detroit Lions at No. 6 probably won’t take a quarterback given Jared Goff’s career renaissance, which makes them an intriguing trade partner if the first few picks went in this direction.

There are so many unknowns right now. It’s hard to say one way or another what the Panthers will do for sure, but Johnston does feel like a luxury pick when one considers other pressing needs that must take priority.

If these get filled out beforehand, it’s a different story.

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