The Carolina Panthers are preparing for the 2022 NFL Draft with massive concerns at some of the most important positions on the field. With so much uncertainty, it seems the front office is open to making a big move either before or on draft night.
Holding the 6th pick with uncertainty at quarterback is the last place Carolina expected to be months ago. Heading into October 2021, the franchise held a 3-0 record and owner David Tepper felt convinced he could pull off a blockbuster trade for a quarterback by the following offseason.
The Panthers finished 5-12 and whiffed on every quarterback that became available this spring. Now, Tepper and general manager Scott Fitterer are exploring another big move that might help avoid a disaster scenario.
Related: Carolina Panthers mock draft 2022
According to Mike Giardi of NFL.com, the Panthers have talked to numerous teams about trading back from the 6th pick in the NFL Draft.
It would be risky for a quarterback-desperate franchise. Moving back, likely outside the top-10 picks, would jeopardize Carolina’s chance at landing the top quarterback on their 2022 NFL Draft board. However, it might be the best move for the franchise.
Why the Carolina Panthers might trade down
Thanks to the Sam Darnold and CJ Henderson trades in 2021, Carolina has a massive gap between its top picks in the 2022 NFL Draft order. The Panthers traded their second, third- , fourth- and fifth-round picks in 2022.
If the front office doesn’t execute a trade, it will make the 6th overall pick and then not be able to pick a player until the 137rd overall selection is put on the clock in Round 4. It’s a problem for a team with draft needs at left tackle, quarterback, edge rusher, linebacker, safety and wide receiver
There’s another issue. While quarterback Kenny Pickett is viewed as a likely first-round pick, very few analysts or teams believe he merits a top-10 selection. There are questions about him being a one-year wonder with limited physical tools and he’s just a year younger than Darnold.
Drafting him at No. 6 would be a massive reach and the Panthers are likely aware of it. The motivation to trade down could be driven by both wanting to collect Day 2 picks and to land Pickett in a more reasonable draft range.
There are a few potential trade fits, but the options might be limited.
- Baltimore Ravens: Baltimore can look at its roster and see a massive need to draft an edge rusher amd cornerback. On talent alone, Derek Stingley Jr. and Kayvon Thibodeaux are top-five players in 2022. If either slides, the Ravens could be very interested. Thibodeaux could thrive in Baltimore’s system and would dramatically improve the pass rush. Stingley could be the long-term replacement for Marcus Peters, forming an incredible duo in the future with Marlon Humphrey. As for the return, packaging the 14th, 76th and 100th picks fit the value.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: If a team is trading up, the move is often made to land a quarterback. Because of the divisional ties, we rule out the New Orleans Saints. However, Carolina would have no problem helping an AFC team take their QB1. Besides, there’s a lot of buzz connecting Malik Willis to Pittsburgh and the Panthers could trade back up into the 13-16 range if it wants Pickett.
- Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargers are taking a win-now approach and that aggressive mentality could be reflected in the NFL Draft. If a top offensive tackle prospect like Evan Neal or Charles Cross falls, that’s a moment when the Chargers can strike to land a premium right tackle. While moving down to 17 is a risk for the Carolina Panthers if they are determined to select Pickett, they could always trade a future Day 2 pick along with the 17th selection to jump New Orleans.