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Carolina Panthers mock draft 2023: Building an offense around the No. 1 pick

The Carolina Panthers pulled off one of the biggest draft trades in years, acquiring the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft from the Chicago Bears. It’s the kind of move a franchise makes after years of failed attempts to land a franchise-caliber quarterback. Now, Carolina is in the perfect position to land its face of the organization for years to come.

A heavy price must be paid when you want to move up from the first pick to No. 9 overall. Carolina dealt Pro Bowl wide receiver D.J. Moore, two first-round picks and two second-round selections to Chicago. It dramatically changes the Panthers’ offense and limits their ability to build a great supporting cast around whatever quarterback they pick with the top selection.

With that said, everyone knew owner David Tepper wanted to end the years of quarterback purgatory. In a crowded market of suitors, Carolina stepped up and paid the necessary cost to select the player it believes can carry the offense and team for years to come.

Before diving into our Panthers mock draft, here’s a run down of Carolina’s draft picks and needs in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Carolina Panthers draft picks 2023

Here are the Carolina Panthers draft picks in the 2023 NFL Draft.

  • 1st Round: 1st overall pick
  • 2nd Round: 39th overall pick
  • 3rd Round: 93rd overall pick
  • 4th Round: 114th overall
  • 4th Round: 132nd overall
  • 5th Round: 145th overall

Related: 2023 NFL Draft order

Carolina Panthers draft needs 2023

Let’s take a look at the Carolina Panthers’ draft needs before free agency.

  • QB
  • RB
  • WR
  • TE
  • LB
  • DL

Related: Winners, losers from Carolina Panthers blockbuster trade

Carolina Panthers mock draft

First round, 1st pick: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

NFL: Combine
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

While the Panthers’ organization will emphatically deny any suggestion that they know who they are taking with the first pick, you don’t make this move if there is uncertainty. Carolina is locked in on exactly who it wants to be the first player taken in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Related: Bryce Young draft profile, scouting report

The knocks on Young’s size are legitimate. There are very few instances in NFL history of successful quarterbacks who measured at 5-foot-11 or under and played at a weight of 205 pounds or less. Kyler Murray is a far better athlete than Young and Russell Wilson had a stronger arm with far more muscle and bulk to his frame. With that said, Young is the best passer in the draft.

He is a Week 1 starter who can make the players around him better. Young is poised when he faces pressure, reads defenses like a multi-year starter in the NFL, knows how to lead a locker room and he’s the most polished quarterback prospect in 2023.

Not only that, he gets to be coached by Frank Reich and Josh McCown. It’s the perfect coaching staff for a young quarterback and Carolina’s offense is another huge reason to like this environment. While the receiving corps needs work, there is confidence Carolina will find ways to fix that this offseason.

Second round, 39th pick: Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina

NFL: Combine
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Terrace Marshall Jr., Preston Williams, Shi Smith and Laviska Shenault Jr. is the current Panthers’ receiving corps. Even if you have the best quarterback in football, that cast of offensive weapons will put the passing attack at a disadvantage against nearly every opponent.

Related: Top NFL free agents 2023

Neither free agency nor the 2023 draft class offers a No. 1 receiver who can fill that void in Carolina. It’s possible the front office goes all-in and pursues a DeAndre Hopkins trade, but that alone won’t sufficiently enhance this position.

Josh Downs can instantly step in as Carolina’s slot receiver and become an important target for Young. While most 5-foot-10 quarterbacks typically struggle to throw over the middle, that was actually one of Young’s strengths in college. Reich is going to run a scheme that generates plenty of quick throws and gets Young out on the move. All of that pairs nicely with what Downs offers, which could make him an extremely productive rookie in 2023.

Third round, 93rd overall: Byron Young, EDGE, Tennessee

NFL: Combine
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee Volunteers edge rusher might not have posted outstanding numbers in his collegiate career (12.5 sacks in 23 games), but he made a strong impression at the NFL Combine. He earned a 9.00 relative Athletic Score, showing off outstanding athleticism for someone of his size.

The 6-foot-3 defensive lineman has some rawness to his game, with an NFL coaching staff needing to work with him on his balance and his feet need a lot of work. However, the NFL Combine proved he’s a better athlete than expected, he’s strong for his position and he’s pretty adept at shedding blocks. While his role will be limited as a rookie, defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero knows the importance of having a wide array of rushers.

“You don’t know where that extra rusher is coming from. It’s that extra level that the offense has to grow through to figure out what you’re doing.”

Carolina Panthers DC Ejiro Evero on the importance of pass rushers in his scheme (H/T Charlotte Observer)

Putting Yung into a room with Evero, Brian Burns and a veteran pass rusher is the best path to getting the most out of him. For a late Round 3 pick, he would make an impact on Carolina’s improving defense in his first season.

Related: NFL trade rumors

Carolina Panthers 7-round mock draft

  • 1st Round, 1st pick: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
  • 2nd Round, 39th pick: Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina
  • 3rd Round, 93rd pick: Byron Young, EDGE, Tennessee
  • 4th Round, 114th overall: Dorian Williams, LB, Tulane
  • 4th Round, 132nd overall: DeWayne McBride, RB, UAB
  • 5th Round, 145th overall: Jakorian Bennett, CB, Maryland
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