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Carolina Panthers showing heavy interest in C.J. Stroud in multiple ways at Ohio State’s Pro Day

The Carolina Panthers acquired the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft with a focus on drafting a franchise quarterback. While the organization hasn’t decided who will be the No. 1 overall pick, there may be early signs of which way the franchise is leaning.

Many believe the debate in Carolina centers on quarterback prospects Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud. They are atop Sportsnaut’s 2023 NFL Draft quarterback rankings with consensus from analysts that they will likely be the first two players drafted.

Related: Carolina Panthers draft picks 2023

However, Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson is under consideration to be drafted with the top pick by Carolina. The Panthers signed veteran quarterback Andy Dalton, a functional starter with more than a decade of experience, who could allow the team to develop Richardson in 2023 without forcing him into action.

While the Panthers still have more than a month to make a decision, with trading down still viewed as a possibility, the organizations’ presence at Ohio State’s Pro Day and actions taken before the event could be an early sign of what direction the front office is leaning.

Related: C.J. Stroud scouting report

Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated reported that the Panthers are sending 11 team officials to Ohio State to watch Stroud’s workout. Among the attendees will be owners David and Nicole Tepper, head coach Frank Reich, assistant general manager Dan Morgan, quarterbacks coach Josh McCown, offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, senior assistant Jim Caldwell and general manager Scott Fitterer.

It’s a significant group of team personnel, with both Carolina’s top decision-makers and its most important coaches on the offensive side making the trip to Ohio. However, it’s not the only early sign of the club’s interest in Stroud.

According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the Panthers held a private meeting with Stroud on Tuesday. It’s the first of multiple face-to-face sessions, with the former Ohio State star scheduled to visit Carolina for a pre-draft visit in April.

The Panthers will be conducting a thorough process to determine which quarterback they want. Both Young and Richardson are expected to have private meetings with Carolina and a similar presence of team executives and coaches will attend pro days at Alabama and Florida.

Related: 4 potential Carolina Panthers moves to make this offseason

One interesting development for Ohio State’s pro day, per James Palmer of NFL.com, is who will be working out with Stroud on Wednesday. All-American wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., a projected top-five pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, will be catching passes from Stroud.

It’s an opportunity for Stroud to put on a great performance, demonstrating many of the traits that put him in the running to be the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. If he delivers an excellent showing on Wednesday and the meeting in Carolina goes well, Stroud could be the Panthers’ starting quarterback in Week 1.

Related: Carolina Panthers reportedly divided on No. 1 pick

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