The Carolina Panthers put themselves on the clock by trading up to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft earlier this month. While we know that this leap will lead to a young quarterback making his way to Charlotte, who that actually will be is unclear. Unlike other drafts, there isn’t a slam-dunk, bona fide No. 1 overall pick that stands above the rest, so there is a bit of mystery as to which way Carolina will ultimately end up going.
That said, we may have gained a bit of clarity on that following Ohio State’s Pro Day on Wednesday. That was where C.J. Stroud — one of the top quarterback prospects in this class — was showing off his skills in front of various NFL evaluators, including a sizable contingent from the Panthers headlined by owner David Tepper, head coach Frank Reich, quarterbacks coach Josh McCown and several others.
After the workout, Stroud could be seen speaking with Reich and a Panthers group that also included McCown. At the end of that conversation, McCown and Stroud could be heard talking about playing a game of HORSE against one another, and that’s where the coach may have let slip what the team plans to do with their top selection.
“Maybe when you live in Charlotte we’ll find a court,” McCown said to Stroud as they embraced.
Depending on how you view that interaction, you could come away with the impression the Panthers — or at least McCown — expect to take Stroud and bring him to Charlotte. Of course, McCown doesn’t have the final say on such a massive decision for the organization, but if his feelings mirror the rest of the coaching staff and front office, Stroud seems to be sitting pretty as the top pick.
McCown has previously been on record talking about how much he likes Stroud as a prospect and even compared him to current Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
“Physically, as I watch him, I think his skill set is very similar to Joe Burrow,” McCown told Underdog Fantasy earlier this year, via SI.com. “OK, I think that would be the guy in the NFL and you know fellow, one-time Buckeye that I would look at and go OK, he moves. He’s about the same size, same frame, same kind of arm talent, and moves the same way physically.”
Stoud is the current betting favorite to come off the board No. 1 overall at -280 at Caesars Sportsbook, and CBS Sports NFL Draft expert Josh Edwards also seems to agree as he has Carolina going with the Ohio State product in his latest mock draft.