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Carolina Panthers reportedly locked in on specific QB with No. 1 pick

The Carolina Panthers traded multiple first-round picks and one of their best plays to acquire the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Following weeks of uncertainty regarding who to take, it appears the Panthers have locked in on their next quarterback.

Immediately after Carolina acquired the first overall pick from the Chicago Bears, Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud emerged as the odds-on favorite to be selected No. 1 overall. He was identified as the perfect fit for Frank Reich’s system and thanks to his prototypical size, it seemed extremely likely he would head to Carolina.

Related: Carolina Panthers mock draft 2023

As the pre-draft process unfolded, NFL Draft rumors circulated that both Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson and Alabama signal-caller Bryce Young remained under heavy consideration. The Panthers’ organization was reportedly divided over which player to draft with the top pick.

Carolina attended Pro Day workouts for Stroud, Young and Richardson with its coaching staff, general manager and owner meeting each of the top quarterbacks. With less than two weeks until the 2023 NFL Draft, it appears a decision has essentially been made.

Related: Bryce Young scouting report

Appearing on NFL Live, ESPN’s Adam Schefter called Young’s visit with the Houston Texans “a waste of time.” The NFL insider believes, based on conversations around the league, that the Panthers are locked in on taking Young with the first overall pick.

Carolina will reportedly bring Stroud in for another pre-draft visit, sitting down with the 6-foot-3 quarterback before making a final decision. However, Schefter noted Stroud’s trip to meet with the Panthers is intended to try and change their mind about him.

If the Panthers draft Young with the first pick, it would stray from the mold that Reich has liked at quarterback during his coaching career. The former Heisman Trophy winner’s size – 5-foot-10 and 204 pounds – is a legitimate concern when it comes to his long-term durability.

However, Young is viewed as the consensus top quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft for a reason. Praised repeatedly by Nick Saban, Young is heralded for his leadership, poise, football IQ, work ethic and well-rounded skills.

If the Panthers draft Young with the first pick, the remainder of the 2023 NFL Draft could become much more complex. The Houston Texans reportedly prefer Young with increasing reports that they might now draft a defensive player with the second pick or trade down.