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Carolina Panthers

Grading the Panthers first-round pick of Bryce Young


After boldly moving up for the top overall pick in a trade with the Bears that cost them, in part, a 2024 first-round pick and receiver D.J. Moore, the Panthers selected Bryce Young, the most pro-ready quarterback in the class. Forget his lack of prototypical size; Young's always been a leader and a winner who possesses the mental and physical attributes to become a Pro Bowl-caliber NFL starter. This is an excellent new direction for Carolina.

Grade: A

After trading multiple first-round picks and star receiver DJ Moore to the Bears for the No. 1 pick, the Panthers decided on Young. The diminutive Heisman Trophy winner stands only 5'10" and weighs 204 pounds but produced immensely at Alabama, throwing 80 touchdowns against 12 interceptions while starting 27 games over the past two years. In Carolina, Young has former NFL quarterback Frank Reich as his head coach, veteran weapons in receivers Adam Thielen and DJ Chark, and a winnable division in the NFC South.

Grade: A

He is the best pure passer in this draft, but I am worried about his size. It's a strange move to move up to take a guy this small by giving up so much to do it. But he has talent, if he holds up. He's an outlier we've never seen. 

Grade: B-

If he were only a couple of inches taller, there would not have been any debate leading up to the draft as to the identity of the top quarterback available. While shorter than scouts would prefer, Young is a natural at the quarterback position, demonstrating terrific field vision, accuracy and improvisational skills for when the play breaks down.

Grade: A

The Panthers gave up a steep price (wide receiver D.J. Moore and high draft picks) to move up to get their young franchise QB of choice for new offensive-minded coach Frank Reich, But Young is an excellent choice, worthy of such an aggressive move up because arm, athleticism, leadership, intangibles, playmaking and all-out mature "it factor." His size becomes a non-issues because the skills and talent in all other areas are off the charts.

Grade: A

Strengths: Creativity within and outside pocket, decision-making and ball placement, adept at finding passing lanes and adjusting arm angles, fearless despite small stature

Weaknesses: Outlier in terms of size, good but not great natural arm talent, sometimes leaves pocket prematurely

Bryce Young embodies the spirit of Yoda as he enters the professional ranks. "Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? And well you should not."

Every discussion regarding Young comes down to one simple understanding: He's under 5'11" and weighs 204 pounds (though his actual playing weight might be lower than the number from the NFL Scouting Combine).

An entire evaluation will be built around the fact that certain organizations and evaluators won't be able to get past his stature. Even so, Young is considered a legitimate top-end talent and arguably the most natural at playing quarterback in this year's class.

In truth, the sport continues to evolve. More of an emphasis has been placed on the creativity of an individual at the game's most important position. Young extends plays. He works in traffic and converts from odd angles. He's magical in how he can make a play come together despite his stature.

Two things are true: First, quarterbacks are more protected than ever. Even so, all quarterbacks get dinged, no matter their size. What truly matters is how those individuals can change the course of a franchise.

Despite being the ultimate outlier, Young is a Jedi within the pocket, as he can overcome dire situations.

One league executive described the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner as a "mental savant," per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

An AFC personnel evaluator added: "Most pro-ready. Sees the whole field better than anyone."

The Carolina Panthers finally pulled the trigger on the franchise quarterback they've been searching for since Cam Newton's body began to break down and he left prior to the 2020 campaign.

To get their man, they had to trade up to the No. 1 overall pick by sending this year's ninth overall pick, a second-round selection, next year's first and a 2025 second, as well as wide receiver DJ Moore, to the Chicago Bears.

Young lands in a situation where he'll have former NFL quarterbacks as his head coach in Frank Reich and quarterbacks coach in Josh McCown. Those guys saw how Young conducted himself, absorbed information and played the game. When all of those factors were taken into consideration, his size didn't matter.

Grade: A

Carolina moved up to No. 1 overall and secured their potential franchise quarterback. Despite concerns about his size, Young was the top QB on the PFF big board, and his 92.9 passing grade led all players at the position over the past two seasons.

Grade: Elite

Young overcomes his lack of size with incredible quarterback traits—rare field vision, out-of-structure genius, and high-quality accuracy to go with top-tier personal and football character. 

Grade: B+

This has been in the books since essentially late February, but Young is the first Alabama player to go number one overall. I have some very real concerns about Young's size and stature and how he gets himself into trouble when navigating pressure, but under Panthers HC Frank Reich and the braintrust they have in Carolina, they can craft an RPO-based offense built around Young's quick release and spatial awareness. They traded up to get their guy, and Young is their guy. Whether or not his size will be an impediment is something to monitor this season.

Grade: B+

The Panthers have their new face of the franchise. What Young lacks in size and physical talent, he more than makes up for in skill. Carolina could have taken a more risky pick here with real home run potential like Anthony Richardson, but Young has the skills worthy of this spot. It's a new era in Carolina.

Grade: B+

View photos of Young in the green room and on-stage after he was picked first by the Panthers.

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