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Carolina Panthers expected to draft QB Kenny Pickett with 6th pick

Carolina Panthers, Kenny Pickett

The Carolina Panthers took a huge swipe at quarterback in 2020 (Teddy Bridgewater) and 2021 (Sam Darnold), whiffing completely. As the 2022 NFL Draft approaches, the Panthers’ brass is prepared to take an even bigger swing this offseason.

A year after trading a second-round pick for Darnold – still owing him $18.858 million guaranteed in 2022 – Carolina is still looking for a franchise quarterback. It’s expected the front office will make a serious run at a Deshaun Watson trade and will thoroughly examine the trade market at quarterback. However, the lack of 2022 draft capital is working against them in a field crowded with competitors.

Related: Carolina Panthers’ Matt Rhule viewed as ‘lame duck’ by peers

As a result, the franchise could go in another direction. Holding the No. 6 pick in the NFL Draft, Carolina is in the perfect position to grab whatever quarterback it wants. While they have months to decide, many around the league believe they know who the Panthers will draft.

According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, the Panthers will likely select Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett with the No. 6 pick in April. He also reported that Carolina is ‘taking a strong shine’ to Pickett and mock drafts inside team war rooms are slotting the 2021 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award recipient to the Panthers.

  • Kenny Pickett stats (2021): 4,319 passing yards, 47 total touchdowns, 67.2% completion rate, 81.2 QBR

If the Panthers want Pickett, he’ll likely be available. Many NFL executives aren’t nearly as high on the 2022 quarterback class, with some evaluators suggesting there isn’t a starting-caliber talent. However, there are a lot of points connecting Pickett to Carolina.

Why the Carolina Panthers might draft Kenny Pickett

NCAA Football: ACC Championship-Pittsburgh vs Wake Forest
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As recent NFL history shows, teams aren’t afraid to snag their quarterback even if everyone else thinks it’s too early. Many thought the New York Giants reached for Daniel Jones at No. 6 overall in 2019, but New York felt confident in him. Similarly, the Green Bay Packers received criticism for trading up to select Jordan Love with the 26th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Related: Kyler Murray to the Carolina Panthers, how a trade might look

If the Panthers are sold on Pickett’s talent and his ability to play at a high level immediately, he should be the pick. Carolina is a quarterback away from competing for the NFC South in 2022 and landing the right starter could change everything for this franchise. Plus, this organization holds a lot of connections to Pickett.

David Tepper, the franchise owner, grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh. He later became part-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and remains an influential booster for the Panthers’ college football program.

Those aren’t Carolina’s only ties to Pickett. The quarterback reminded everyone that he already has a strong relationship with head coach Matt Rhule. Considering how much influence Rhule and Tepper will have over the Panthers’ quarterback decision, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Pickett moves to Carolina by May.

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