Panthers Have a New Franchise QB in C.J. Stroud

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Bleacher Nation NFL 2023 Mock Draft: Panthers Have a New Franchise QB


The Bleacher Nation NFL 2023 Mock Draft will be a running mock draft that spans between now and round one of the NFL Draft. Each of the 31 picks (Miami forfeited their first-round pick due to tampering) will get a dedicated post. Here’s how it’ll work:

  • Every pick in the Mock Draft gets its own post. We will do one or two picks per day.
  • We will link back to previous posts with a running draft recap.
  • This feature will not include trades and will cover the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

We kick things off with the Panthers, who traded for the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft last month. Today, Carolina gets their next QB of the future with the first pick in the draft.

The Pick Is In

QB C.J. Stroud — Ohio State

CJ Stroud goes first overall in this 2023 NFL Mock Draft.

The Fit

This one is pretty simple: the Panthers have been searching for their franchise QB since Cam Newton’s prime eluded him.

Carolina is believed to be considering three of the top four quarterbacks in the draft, and Stroud and Bryce Young have been confirmed, while the third is either Will Levis or Anthony Richardson.

I’ve said it for weeks — maybe even longer — I think the Panthers will ultimately land on Stroud. I think they traded D.J. Moore and a bevy of picks to the Bears to draft Stroud, and I’m sticking with my prediction here. I think the Ohio State signal caller will be the Frank Reich era’s first swing at fixing the QB position in Carolina.

Scouting Report

Stroud put on a heck of a performance in Indianapolis last month, putting on the most accurate passing display at the Scouting Combine while dropping in multiple 60-plus yard go balls with ease.

Stroud’s accuracy is his strongest skill, and he’ll excel in the NFL as a pocket passer. Still, Stroud lit up the box score at Ohio State in 2022, owning a 94.2 deep grade at PFF. He threw for 3,684 yards, 41 touchdowns, and six interceptions with a 125 passer rating. Stroud was even better in 2021 with one less game played, throwing for 4,424 yards, 44 touchdowns, and a 130.8 passer rating.

A counterpoint to Stroud’s success is that he threw the ball to guys like Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Marvin Harrison Jr., and Emeka Egbuka during his time at Ohio State. It’s a lot easier to be a high-percentage passer when you have five potential first-rounders to throw to.

However, Stroud’s 26.7 percent rate of perfectly placed passes is the best among all FBS QBs since 2021. Panthers’ receivers, Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark are none of those five guys Stroud has at OSU, but Carolina will eventually upgrade the receivers room.

Final Thoughts: Stroud is accurate to all three levels, has a smooth touch, and his anticipation throws stand out in his tape. However, Stroud could have been better under pressure, and his throws took a dive in quality while on the run. Stroud will need to learn how to feel the rush much better at the NFL level with the Panthers, but what QB doesn’t?

Bleacher Nation’s 2023 NFL Mock Draft

  1. Carolina Panthers (via CHI) — QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
  2. Houston Texans
  3. Arizona Cardinals
  4. Indianapolis Colts
  5. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN)
  6. Detroit Lions (via LAR)
  7. Las Vegas Raiders
  8. Atlanta Falcons
  9. Chicago Bears (via CAR)
  10. Philadelphia Eagles (via NO)
  11. Tennessee Titans
  12. Houston Texans (via CLE)
  13. New York Jets
  14. New England Patriots
  15. Green Bay Packers
  16. Washington Commanders
  17. Pittsburgh Steelers
  18. Detroit Lions
  19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  20. Seattle Seahawks
  21. Los Angeles Chargers
  22. Baltimore Ravens
  23. Minnesota Vikings
  24. Jacksonville Jaguars
  25. New York Giants
  26. Dallas Cowboys
  27. Buffalo Bills
  28. Cincinnati Bengals
  29. New Orleans Saints (via SF)
  30. Philadelphia Eagles
  31. Kansas City Chiefs

Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is the Lead NFL Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.