KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Carolina Panthers selected former Alabama quarterback Bryce Young with the first overall pick on Thursday’s Day 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Carolina traded up from the ninth pick back in March — giving the Bears two first round picks, two second-rounders and receiver DJ Moore — so it would have its pick of quarterbacks, and the Panthers decided on the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner, who led Alabama to a 30-4 record as starting quarterback.
“The quarterback we are getting has been a winner forever,” Panthers coach Frank Reich said in a press conference in Charlotte. “This guy is a winner. He has been a winner on the field, but he wins off the field as well. He’s our kind of guy. Make no mistake about it, we got the best quarterback in college football.”
Owner David Tepper said that Young gave the team “the best probability of winning Super Bowls,” and GM Scott Fitterer declared that Young “checks all of the boxes.”
Young met with Reich, Fitterer and the Panthers staff during the draft process, and Young came away impressed with Carolina as a landing spot.
“It was amazing to be able to talk to the entire front office and coaching staff,” he said of his visit. “I learned so much just in our short time there. It’s an amazing staff, and also, I was able to be there while the players were there. The timing worked out that way. And you can tell there’s an energy. There’s a focus and a drive and that will to win.”
Young was also impressed with the offense new coach Reich is installing with the Panthers.
“I’ve been able to talk with him about the system and his philosophy,” Young said. “I think it was something really useful to me and was really great to learn about — doing a little bit of research on his background, where he comes from and then hearing it from him what he looks for the quarterback position, what they want their identity to be and everything. It was great to be able to learn from him the small time that I had, and I’m super excited we continue to learn and grow underneath him.”
There was speculation after the Panthers traded up to the top pick that they might be interested in Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud, who went to the Texans with the second pick. As the draft neared, consensus emerged that Young would be the choice, but he said he never paid attention to the rumors and hype leading up to the day.
“I never knew where I was going,” he said. “I never tried to measure anything up. I knew how Draft Day was. Nothing is promised. I didn’t try to keep up with what was in progress. I just tried to control what I could control.”
Then he got the phone call.
“It was surreal. It was a blessing,” he said. “You know, you sit there and wait and then you look down at your phone and see that Charlotte area code. There’s a lot of emotions.”
A rumor on the day of the draft circulated that the Panthers hadn’t spoken to Young in about two weeks, leading to speculation they may go in another direction. Young said he didn’t know for sure until “I saw that area code on my phone when the commissioner announced the Panthers were on the clock. I always knew God would direct me to the right place. I didn’t know. I didn’t have any confirmation. I didn’t look super deep into it.”
He also isn’t looking super deep into the pressure that comes with being the top pick, a pick the Panthers gave up plenty in order to make, or of Tepper’s multiple Super Bowls declaration.
“Pressure is an opportunity,” he said. “It’s fun to be in those situations. That’s what we all dream of.”
There are concerns over Young’s size. He is 5-foot-11 and played at Alabama at under 200 pounds, two measurements that most NFL quarterbacks exceed by a large margin.
Young shrugged off the concerns, however.
“You know, those that doubt me I feel like everyone’s entitled to their opinion, I think that’s what we do in sports,” he said. “We all come together, we all get to have those arguments and those conversations about who we think is good. That’s the beauty of it. I’m grateful for all the opinions, but I choose to focus on what I can control, put my energy into that.
“Whatever exterior factors may be, whether it’s positive or negative, that stuff I can’t control. So for me, all I put my energy on, all I focus on is getting better day in and day out and doing everything that I can to help the Carolina Panthers and accomplish our team goals.”
Young’s selection marked the third time the Panthers have used their first round pick a quarterback. The franchise selected Kerry Collins fifth overall in 1995 with its first-ever draft pick, and chose Cam Newton — another Heisman Trophy winner — in 2011 with the only other first overall pick in Panthers history. Both lost as Super Bowl starters: Collins in Super Bowl 35 when the Giants lost to Baltimore, and Newton when he led Carolina in a Super Bowl 50 loss to Denver.