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Carolina Panthers reportedly narrow No. 1 pick down to two players

Nearly three weeks after parting with a treasure trove of assets to move up from the ninth slot to the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers are still trying to decide who to take on April 27.

We know it will be a quarterback, with four projected to go in the first round. But even then, there’s no consensus No. 1 pick, and no one can agree on how each of the top prospects should be ranked.

While the Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer, coach Frank Reich and the rest of the Carolina front office may not know who they’ll take with the top pick, they’re making progress.

According to ESPN’s David Newton, the Panthers are still in the evaluation process when it comes to grading all four of the perceived top QBs. That includes Florida’s Anthony Richardson and Kentucky’s Will Levis.

Yet, Newton doesn’t believe either of those two prospects are receiving legitimate consideration to hear their name called first by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on draft night. Instead, sources close to the situation believe the final two contestants are Alabama’s Bryce Young, and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, in no particular order.

For most, since those are the top two QB prospects, this comes as no surprise. But could one of the two be slightly ahead of the other?

Key factor in Carolina Panthers’ QB evaluation could point to Stroud

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Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

While few truly know what’s going on inside the building at the Carolina Panthers’ headquarters, perhaps there are a few hints we can take away from coach Reich’s public comments so far.

We know the biggest question scouts have on Bryce Young is his size, at 5-foot-10, 204 pounds. Some would suggest his height is a setback, but coach Reich believes it’s not so much about looking at a player’s size. It’s more about their durability and how they can bounce back from a hit.

“Absolutely [durability] is a consideration. Also a consideration [is] his playmaking ability, his accuracy and his leadership, his instincts.”

Carolina Panthers head coach Frank Reich on evaluating QB class

If durability is a question, Young, who only missed one game with the Crimson Tide during his college career, shouldn’t be graded too poorly in that department.

Yet, if durability is also taking into consideration a player’s size, perhaps C.J. Stroud, who’s 6-foot-3, 214 pounds, is more built to take a hit, knowing he can continue putting on more weight by adding more muscle with NFL training.

Who knows how the Panthers view things, but coach Reich is doing his best to suggest height isn’t such a big factor, which could very well make Young the top choice too. Basically, the intrigue surrounding who the Carolina Panthers take with the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft won’t be dissipating any time soon.

Related: NFL Draft insider says growing ‘buzz’ Carolina Panthers go in a new direction with No. 1 pick

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