Quarterback Bryce Young was the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft on Thursday, revealing the target of the Carolina Panthers’ two months of wheeling and dealing and what the franchise hopes is a turning point.
Young was 24-3 as a starter at Alabama and won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore in 2021.
Young spent three seasons in Tuscaloosa, winning a national championship as a backup to 2022 first-rounder Mac Jones. He won the Heisman in his first season as Crimson Tide starter. In 36 games, he threw 80 touchdown passes and completed 624 passes for 8,356 yards. He posted a record of 24-3 as a starter and holds numerous program records, including five games with five touchdown passes and single-season marks for passing touchdowns (47) and passing yards (4,872).
Young is praised for his ability to succeed off-script and find passing lanes with creativity and anticipation, but skeptics question Young’s size. He’s far from the requisite body type of NFL quarterbacks at 5-foot-11, 204 pounds, which calls into question durability and longevity.
But the Panthers pointed to experience when downplaying the scouting strife of drafting a quarterback without prototypical height and weight.
General manager Scott Fitterer was with the Seattle Seahawks when the team selected 5-foot-11 Wisconsin prospect Russell Wilson in the third round, and head coach Frank Reich mentioned production and instincts as winning traits that far exceed size requirements. Fitterer said Seattle’s review of all game film found Wilson had three pass attempts batted down in his college career; Young had two.
The Panthers acquired the No. 1 pick by trading the No. 9 pick, their second-rounder (No. 61 overall), a 2024 first-round pick and a 2025 second-rounder to the Chicago Bears in March.
Quarterback was the No. 1 offseason priority for Panthers owner David Tepper, who attended pro day and private workouts with Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud.
The top quarterback on the depth chart when voluntary workouts began last week was Andy Dalton, ahead of 2022 third-round pick Matt Corral.
Tepper hired Frank Reich as head coach in January and another former NFL quarterback, Josh McCown, joined the staff to work with quarterbacks.
Carolina failed with two reclamation projects: Sam Darnold, who was acquired from the Jets and was drafted third overall in 2018, and Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 pick in the same draft acquired from the Cleveland Browns.
The Panthers were 7-10 last season and three quarterbacks — Darnold, Mayfield and PJ Walker — attempted at least 100 passes. The trio combined for 16 touchdown passes and 16 turnovers (13 interceptions).
The last Carolina starting quarterback with more than 15 touchdown passes in a season was Kyle Allen (17) in 2019.
Nine teams in the modern draft era (1967) have drafted first overall and made the playoffs the next season. The last time the Panthers drafted first, Carolina selected quarterback Cam Newton from Auburn. Newton was NFL MVP in 2015 and led the team to Super Bowl 50, a loss to the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning.
Newton was still Carolina’s quarterback in 2018, the last time the Panthers reached the playoffs.
Young is the fourth QB in five years to win the Heisman Trophy and be selected with the No. 1 pick. He becomes the fourth Crimson Tide player to roll from Heisman winner to the first round of the NFL draft since running back Mark Ingram (2009 Heisman, 2011 first-round pick of the New Orleans Saints at No. 28).
–Carolina Panthers quarterbacks drafted in the first round:
1995 5th Kerry Collins Penn State
2011 1st Cam Newton Auburn
–First overall pick history since 2000:
2000 Courtney Brown DE Penn State Cleveland Browns
2001 Michael Vick QB Virginia Tech Atlanta Falcons
2002 David Carr QB Fresno State Houston Texans
2003 Carson Palmer QB USC Cincinnati Bengals
2004 Eli Manning QB Ole Miss San Diego Chargers
2005 Alex Smith QB Utah San Francisco 49ers
2006 Mario Williams DE North Carolina State Houston Texans Pro Bowl (2008, 2009, 2013, 2014)
2007 JaMarcus Russell QB LSU Oakland Raiders –
2008 Jake Long T Michigan Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
2009 Matthew Stafford QB Georgia Detroit Lions Pro Bowl (2014)
Super Bowl champion (LVI)
2010 Sam Bradford QB Oklahoma St. Louis Rams Heisman Trophy (2008)
Rookie of the Year (2010)
2011 Cam Newton QB Auburn Carolina Panthers Heisman Trophy (2010)
Pro Bowl (2011, 2013, 2015)
Offensive Rookie of the Year (2011)
NFL MVP (2015)
2012 Andrew Luck QB Stanford Indianapolis Colts Pro Bowl (2012, 2013, 2014, 2018)
2013 Eric Fisher T Central Michigan Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl (2018, 2020)
Super Bowl champion (LIV)
2014 Jadeveon Clowney DE South Carolina Houston Texans Pro Bowl (2016, 2017, 2018)
2015 Jameis Winston QB Florida State Tampa Bay Buccaneers Heisman Trophy (2013)
Pro Bowl (2015)
2016 Jared Goff QB California Los Angeles Rams Pro Bowl (2017, 2018, 2022)
2017 Myles Garrett DE Texas A&M Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl (2018, 2020, 2021, 2022)
2018 Baker Mayfield QB Oklahoma Cleveland Browns Heisman Trophy (2017)
2019 Kyler Murray QB Oklahoma Arizona Cardinals Heisman Trophy (2018)
Offensive Rookie of the Year (2019)
Pro Bowl (2020, 2021)
2020 Joe Burrow QB LSU Cincinnati Bengals Heisman Trophy (2019)
Pro Bowl (2022)
2021 Trevor Lawrence QB Clemson Jacksonville Jaguars Pro Bowl (2022)
2022 Travon Walker DE Georgia Jacksonville Jaguars –
2023 Bryce Young QB Alabama Carolina Panthers
–Field Level Media