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Panthers draft quarterback Matt Corral 94th overall in third round

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CHARLOTTE — The Panthers walked into the 2022 NFL Draft with two big needs, but only one pick in the first two days.

They still managed to cross both items off the list.

A day after taking left tackle Ikem Ekwonu with the sixth overall pick, the Panthers made a move Friday night to acquire a quarterback who will be here for more than one season.

The Panthers traded with New England to move up to the 94th overall pick, and chose quarterback Matt Corral from Ole Miss.

It was a bold move, as general manager Scott Fitterer wasn't casually giving away future assets. But they were able to send a third-round pick next year and their 137th overall pick this year to get a quarterback.

The 23-year-old Corral will be under contract for the next four seasons, and that allows for an eye to the future. The only quarterbacks on the roster prior to this weekend were Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker and both are in the final year of their current contracts.

The 6-foot-2, 212-pound Corral led Ole Miss to the Sugar Bowl last season, but suffered a high ankle sprain in that game that kept him from working out at the Combine.

He completed 67.9 percent of his passes last year for 3,349 yards and 20 touchdowns. He threw 14 picks as a sophomore (including six in one game against Arkansas), but only five interceptions last year. He also ran for 11 touchdowns, showing the ability to move in and out of the pocket.

He has the quickest release of any of the passers in this year's class, and that ability to get the ball out quickly would serve him well in new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's system.

He also showed a flair for leading people, and said he felt at home when the team held "Get Real Wednesdays," in which players were encouraged to talk about off-field issues.

"I just know what separates me is my leadership," Corral said at the Scouting Combine. "Obviously my physical ability, my arm talent, but me having an understanding of Xs and Os and understanding protections. I think that's what separates me.

"But what really separates me is my ability to lead a team. I understand what it means to be vulnerable around people who don't necessarily want to be vulnerable. I was one of those guys who didn't want to talk about emotions, that's just how I was. I never talked. If I was crying, it was 'Stop crying.' I was raised with two older brothers, and it was like 'toughen up.'

"There's a lot of players on my team who weren't necessarily comfortable talking about their issues. And them seeing me be vulnerable made them feel more comfortable. And having that understanding of what I want to get out of this and what they want to get out of this and being on the same page, that's a huge thing. And taking care of the life stuff, when that's taken care of, I think football takes care of itself. That's what we saw in '21. We weren't the best team, we weren't the most talented team, but we played the best together. That's a big part of it."

View photos of Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral, drafted by Carolina in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft.