Carolina’s pitching staff has a chance to mold a young QB and the Cardinals will look to land a defensive star, but not everyone came out on top.
The Panthers traded up for the No. 1 pick on Friday, becoming the first NFL team to do so since the Los Angeles Rams in 2016 (for Jared Goff). The move ends what was thought to be weeks of uncertainty, at least until the first days of April.
Chicago is out of the bullpen market and could spend a boatload of capital on more depth at cornerback, a better, more aggressive front that can fit Matt Eberflus’ run-heavy defenses and, of course, a few more pieces that can shape a backfield . He lives up to offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s dreams (while we’re not comparing Justin Fields to Lamar Jackson, any quarterback with the ability to break out of the pocket benefits from the presence of versatile post and blockers).
After only Kenny Pickett was taken in the first round last year, we’ll have something closer in the 2018 draft coming up the pike—Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson. There are plenty of players who prefer the team on the board (Will Levis, for example, played in a Kyle Shanahan offense in college and also in a Sean McVay-style offense while at Kentucky). Now the only question that remains is whether Carolina made the move for the player we thought they did or if another surprise remains.
Fitterer gets his third chance at a franchise quarterback, this time with the No. 1 pick.
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Scott Fitterer: A few years ago, I made the case for former Bears GM Ryan Pace to draft a second quarterback after Mitch Trubisky. My point was that we often make mistakes in life and do better the second time when we have downloaded and calibrated the information. Fitterer, however, is the No. 3 trade for a potential franchise quarterback. The Panthers traded a second-, fourth-, and sixth-round pick for Sam Darnold, a fifth-round pick for Baker Mayfield and now, two first-round picks, two second-round picks and DJ Moore for a third crack at solving their pursuit of David Tepper. for a passing franchise. It burns heavy fuel like a 1990s Bronco with little impact (so far). But it’s still here.
Ryan Poles: The Bears GM got the best deal on the table and gave his scouting staff a chance to recalibrate just over a month before the draft. While the Bears didn’t get as much success as the Titans from the Rams in 2016, the Rams were shooting from a historically low draft and thus had to add a premium. The biggest sweetener here for the Poles is the addition of Moore, a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver who could potentially land a low first or high second round pick from a team as is.
Justin Fields: That’s as solid a statement of confidence as we’ve seen from a quarterback in a similar position. The Bears took the No. 1 pick right after the combine and didn’t even make it past Pro Day, where they could have entertained the idea of selecting Bryce Young or another elite pass rusher (at the expense of Fields’ logic). That gives him a certain level of power within the franchise and some things he absolutely didn’t have at this time last year: a runway of patience and one of the best sets of weapons in the NFL.
Bryce Young: Likely the No. 1 pick (at least at this juncture, barring an invisible gear-obsessed push from Will Levis), Young would fall into the very capable hands of Frank Reich, who, at one point, engineered an offense that had Carson Wentz on the verge of an MVP season. Although it’s always an uphill battle for quarterbacks whose franchises sacrifice significant capital to acquire them—thus, leaving less draft capital to build around them—Young would enter an offense that features two strong tackles and some decent interior line play.
Will Lewis: If there’s another quarterback who could benefit from this move, I’d vote for the Kentucky product. As we mentioned in the introduction, Levis played for both Liam Coen (who later left to become the Rams’ offensive coordinator after Kevin O’Connell left) and Rich Scangarello, who was Kyle’s coach Shanahan, as well as offensive coordinator Vic Fangio. . The Panthers’ coaching staff includes Thomas Brown, who was McVay’s former assistant coach and game coordinator. Reich also often spoke of his desire to find a quarterback who could handle the extremes of the pocket. Levis has a frame to take hits, even if evaluators like the way Young can handle pressure.
Frank Reich: Reich inherited and almost immediately lost Andrew Luck in his first shot as a head coach. There’s always a certain amount of pressure on a perceived QB whisperer when he makes his first high-profile pick at the position (see: Shanahan and Trey Lance), but Reich clearly has the weight and backing of ownership behind him. Game planning with Philip Rivers or Jacoby Brissett is less immediacy, but Young, if he is indeed the Panthers’ pick, isn’t going to come in like a true rookie. The Crimson Tide threw away a lot of their RPO scheme once it became clear how adept Young was at running an NFL-style offense.
Josh McCown: Quarterbacks coach Frank Reich, who figures to be on the fast track to an eventual head coaching position, gets another boost here: a chance to flex his muscles with a rookie. I wrote about McCown’s process here — back when he was, quite literally, a living translator between the starting and coaching staffs — when he was with Sam Darnold and the Jets.
Jonathan Gannon: With the Bears out of the picture and the (in theory, at least, quarterback-needy) Texans picking No. 2, the best defensive player in the draft falls to a Cardinals team that is underserved on that side of the ball and starting over . with a defensive coach.
The NFL: The Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears traded for the No. 1 pick on Friday night heading into St. Patrick’s weekend, which is usually the type of venue reserved for shedding a suspension or releasing the results of an internal investigation into some kind of owner cryptocurrency theft. Someone will get an earful of 345 Park Avenue on schedule. For goodness sake, we have Cornell vs. Yale coming up (slaughter) and Christiaan Bezuidenhout leads the Players Championship. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it…
Matt Rhule: Ultimately, Rhule’s advantage coming into the NFL was his knowledge of the modern collegiate landscape at a time when the league adopted ideas at a faster level than before. That would have served him very well in Carolina’s current scenario, in which he has the opportunity to choose between three or four capable passers at No. 1. Rhule’s cancellation is largely due to his inability to recruit a veteran quarterback or bet everything he had with the franchise on drafting one, which led to the Panthers selling off critical pieces toward the end of his tenure.
Draft eligible defensive players: While we all assumed this would happen eventually, there was a chance for defensive players to go No. 1 overall in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1991 and ’92, when Russell Maryland went to the Cowboys and Steve Emtman to the Colts.
DJ Moore: I wonder, if you’re Moore, what you’d prefer. This year, he could either be the top target for a No. 1 draft pick and finally handcuff the team to rework his ultra-friendly contract, or he could be one of the few targets for Justin Fields, who didn’t have a single receiver with a target load of over 50 this year (Cole Kmet led all Bears receivers with 50 catches). Moore contacts Chase Claypool, Kmet and Darnell Mooney. An offense designed by Reich and former Rams assistant coach Thomas Brown is on the table, and it’s an intriguing opportunity to leave it behind. In Los Angeles, Brown was part of a team that had a single receiver open on nearly every play, and nearly all of McVay’s assistants who have left to become coaches elsewhere have revealed similar success in feeding their primary targets. Cooper Kupp introduced this role in a market leading expansion. Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase are going to do it.
I just don’t know how much a player would enjoy being labeled as “too approachable”. This is one of the best parts of the deal for Chicago. Moore unfortunately lost wind of huge receiver contract extensions and is set to make about $1 million more than Hunter Renfrow per year. While he may need to work less on his open opportunities, will he have enough upside to remain relevant on the open market heading into his 30s?
Jim Irsay: As we wrote a few weeks ago, there was a chance the division-rival Texans could put themselves in a better position than Indianapolis to secure the No. 1 pick via trade, putting the quarterback the Colts wanted in the same spot. category. While having the Panthers pay that premium is somewhat easier to swallow, there’s now no way the Colts can leapfrog the Texans, who sit at No. 2. While I could easily see a scenario where Aaron Rodgers signs with the Jets and Houston’s Jimmy Garoppolo, it’s just as easy to see the Texans taking their quarterback of the future at No. 2, leaving the Colts with their third pick (if they wanted a rookie at all). I think Indianapolis will take a deep look at the rookie class, and while there’s always a chance they love Will Levis, for example, and get their guy like the Chargers did in 2020 with Justin Herbert, there’s a little more stress in the process.