Carolina Panthers: A Fresh 7-Round Mock NFL Draft Following the Shocking Christian McCaffrey Trade

Oct 9, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) reacts in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 9, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) reacts in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /
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2023 NFL Draft, Bryce Young, 2023 NFL Mock Draft
Oct 8, 2022; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) walks off the field after a Crimson Tide victory over the Texas A&M Aggies at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /

Round 1: Pick 1 – Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

In the 2011 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers drafted a Heisman-winning, national champion at quarterback. Cam Newton became one of the best players in franchise history, earning an MVP and leading his squad to a Super Bowl berth in 2015.

Since then, the team has been searching far and wide for Newton’s successor, even circling back to Newton at one point. Band-aids like Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold, and Baker Mayfield have fizzled out and failed to produce winning play from the quarterback position.

It is time to bring this chase to a merciful end by selecting Bryce Young at No. 1 overall for the Carolina Panthers. The Alabama signal-caller owns a Heisman Trophy and a National Championship ring (albeit as a backup in 2020), matching the criteria that Newton boasted upon arrival.

That is where the comparisons end for the two quarterbacks. Young stands a shade above or below six-foot-tall, depending on who you ask, and weighs 194 pounds. Comparing this to Newton’s 6-foot-5, 248-pound frame highlights just how different they are from a physical standpoint.

While Newton has the upper hand in size, Young makes up for it with superior arm talent. Young may not be able to cover the overall distance that Newton could through the air, but he displays touch and ball placement that the former Panther never quite figured out.

With the Panthers, Bryce Young would inherit a strong stable of weapons, even after the McCaffrey trade. On top of that, the offensive line has performed extremely well in 2022, and given how young they are as a group, it’s reasonable to expect a step up next season.

The defense is just a few pieces away from boasting an average unit in the NFL, which could be all that’s needed if Young lives up to the hype. The Panthers might opt for a more traditional quarterback like CJ Stroud or Will Levis, but Bryce Young’s intangibles should be enough to break the tie.

Young would start from day one for the franchise. His pinpoint accuracy will rejuvenate DJ Moore in a major way. Young is likely to run much more in the NFL than he does in college, giving the Panthers a versatile quarterback to build around. He is exactly what they need in Carolina.

Round 2: Pick 33 – Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame

Brian Burns is a hot name on the trade market right now, but even if he returns to Carolina in 2023, it will be the final year of his rookie deal. Burns recorded 25.5 sacks over his first three seasons, and his four in 2022 are two times as many as his next closest teammate.

Notre Dame’s Isaiah Foskey is a premier option for the Panthers to potentially pair with Burns. Foskey is much bigger than Burns was coming out of college, specializing more as a run stuffer than a pure pass rusher.

With the Panthers, Foskey would help stabilize a run defense that ranks 24th in rushing touchdowns allowed and 26th in rushing yards allowed. The Fighting Irish defender will also add to the pass rush, which has accounted for the third-fewest sacks (9) in the entire NFL in 2022.

Isaiah Foskey is a better player than Yetur Gross-Matos if you ask me, and profiles as a long-term replacement for Brian Burns if the team trades him or lets him walk in free agency in 2024.

There’s a chance that the ND pass rusher comes off the board on day one, but with a stocked cupboard of draft picks, Carolina can trade up for Foskey’s talents if they must. In this mock, the star defender falls in their laps.

Round 2: Pick 51 (via SF) – Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama

Similar to Foskey, Jahmyr Gibbs could fall into day two of the 2023 NFL Draft. Even if it requires a small trade up, the Panthers should do everything in their power to add Gibbs to their backfield.

Bijan Robinson is the front runner to hear his name first at the running back position. Only once in the last four drafts have two running backs been taken in the first round, so Gibbs might be the odd one out.

So far in my evaluation of the two, I view them both as day-one players. Getting Jahmyr Gibbs in round two would present phenomenal value and would also pair him up with his current Alabama teammate, Bryce Young.

Gibbs succeeds by using his insanely quick burst and acceleration. He is elusive with the ball in his hands and is capable of making one cut and taking it to the house on any play.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Gibbs’ game is his ability as a pass catcher out of the backfield. I won’t say he is Christian McCaffrey, but the skill set that Gibbs brings to the table will help Carolina fans forget their former franchise centerpiece.

Jahmyr Gibbs transferred to Alabama before the 2022 season to boost his NFL Draft stock. He has succeeded in this endeavor, and in doing so, Gibbs becomes the successor to Christian McCaffrey in Carolina.