For this mock, I'm assuming the Panthers don't trade up to land a quarterback and instead go the veteran route at the position. Skoronski can slide inside to play guard in Carolina, teaming up with Ikem Ekwonu to give the Panthers two building blocks for the offensive line. New head coach Frank Reich knows the impact of investing heavily in the line of scrimmage, having spent time on the Eagles' staff before he left for Indianapolis.
Fairly or not — OK, not — the strong-armed, athletic, 6-3, 232-pounder is going to draw comparisons to the likes of Matthew Stafford and Josh Allen. But Levis needs to improve his consistency and footwork while recovering from the physical beating he endured in 2022. New HC Frank Reich might be the guy to help iron out those issues. Probably be a good idea to have a veteran on hand so Levis wouldn't have to play before he's ready for the NFL, however this team also appears ready to win provided it can stabilize the situation under center.
Richardson is one of the most exciting prospects in this class. The problem: he's short on experience, and while his physical tools are rare, the Panthers are in dire need of a starting QB right now. David Tepper could choose to go the free agency route (again), but that has been, shall we say, a crapshoot. At the end of the day, Carolina may have to move inside the top 5 if there's a quarterback they really want with Day 1 starter potential.
Many people believe that the Panthers will go quarterback here, but they are in a position where they have to give up a lot of picks to move up. I think they decide not to do it and add a veteran and wait until the 2024 class. Myles Murphy will complement Brian Burns perfectly and give the Panthers a dynamic one-two punch at the edge position.
The Panthers may need to move up to get Levis, and David Tepper may not be patient waiting for a quarterback to fall to them at No. 9. While the 2022 season did not go as well for Levis as hoped, injuries and changes to Kentucky's supporting cast and coaching staff played a part, as well. His physical traits—prototypical size, arm talent and mobility—combined with his intangibles and toughness, could entice the Panthers to take a chance on his upside as they begin a new era with the franchise's first offensive-minded head coach.
The Panthers desperately need some stability at the quarterback position, and while Young, Levis or Stroud would have been nice, Richardson is a less proven but still logical choice. He has the tools, he's mobile with a big arm and he can be coached up at the next level to play with more precision.
According to Elias Sports Bureau research, we have never seen three or more teams hire a new coach and draft a new quarterback in the top 10 in the same offseason (since the 1970 merger). If things play out like this, Frank Reich and the Panthers could make a little history as the third such franchise in 2023. Carolina was brutal under center last season, though Sam Darnold flashed a bit down the stretch. The Panthers might opt to bring him back, but they likely wouldn't -- and shouldn't -- stop there.
Richardson will not be ready to start right away after just 13 college starts and with some rawness to his game, but his potential is off the charts. He has the arm. He has the rushing ability. And he has the 6-foot-4, 232-pound frame. Scouts are fascinated by his upside. It'd just come down to whether the Panthers believe they can fix his accuracy woes and develop his game to capitalize on those physical traits. Maybe they fall in love with another QB and try to move up, but if not, don't be surprised if they're the ones to reach for Richardson (my No. 36 prospect).
An attempt to trade for Deshaun Watson failed. Recycling Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield failed too so the Panthers will once again be in the market for a signal-caller and I'm not sure the Bears would be willing to trade back this far. Levis' senior season was a mixed bag compared to his impressive 2021 campaign — he lost his top receiver (Wan'Dale Robinson) and offensive coordinator to the NFL — but he features the combination of arm talent, size (6-foot-3, 232 pounds) and mobility that usually sparks the imagination of an offensive coordinator. He fits the profile of what new head coach Frank Reich usually looks for in a quarterback.
GM Scott Fitterer calls his old friends in Seattle to jump ahead of other teams for Levis. He trades first-round picks this year and next, with Seattle sending back a Day 3 pick to even out the exchange. Levis' physical tools and competitiveness are appreciated by scouts, and his inconsistency in footwork and moving off primary reads are obstacles that Carolina hopes he can overcome in much the same way Josh Allen has with the Bills.