Who Will Start for the Panthers at Quarterback Next Year?by Patrick Champion January 25, 2021 1 comment
The Panthers were certainly not the best team in the league, recording a 5-11 season this year. Their 21st ranked offense and 17th ranked defense was often not enough to close out games, as they went 3-8 in games decided by one score. This record can be partially attributed to the QB play of free-agent signing Teddy Bridgewater.
Coming from New Orleans, the Quarterback only threw one touchdown in the 4th quarter all season. The aforementioned Bridgewater had decent (at best) stats overall, throwing 15 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, for a total of 3733 yards. Overall, his QBR of 64.1 ranked 17th among all starters. Nevertheless, some Panthers fans have been calling for his head. And with new GM Scott Fitterer at the helm, the Panthers have options for who they want under center. So, who COULD be the starting quarterback for the Panthers next year?
Almost No Chance
Justin Fields (Ohio State)
Trevor Lawrence doesn’t even get included on this list. That leaves us with the (usually) agreed upon second-best QB in the class, Justin Fields. However, the Panthers have the 8th pick in the first round of the NFL Draft, which means they would need to trade up to get him. They would likely have to outbid several QB-hungry teams such as the Broncos and 49ers. Overall, there are too many roadblocks for this to realistically happen.
Unlikely, but Not Inconceivable
Zach Wilson (BYU)
Another player in a similar situation to Fields, Wilson is considered the third-best prospect (and occasionally the second) coming into this year’s draft. While BYU isn’t exactly the most notable football school, Wilson is still considered a great prospect with a beautiful deep ball, and someone who threw 33 TDs to only 3 interceptions this season. However, it’s entirely possible that Wilson doesn’t fall to 8th, as there are teams such as the Jets and the Eagles with arguably more dire quarterback situations than Carolina.
Trey Lance (North Dakota State)
Lance might not have played much in 2020, after declaring for the draft soon after the season started, but what was seen in 2019 was very good. Lance threw for 2,786 yards, but perhaps more notably, threw for 28 touchdowns to zero–yes, zero–interceptions. However, drafting Lance can be risky. For starters, Lance hasn’t really played in a year. But more importantly, playing in the NFL is far different than playing for an FCS school. Sure, he’ll have practice, but will it be enough? All of those questions will be running through GM Fitterer’s mind the night of the draft.
Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans)
This is the first non-college player in the draft, and boy is it a big one. Watson is one of the consensus top-five QBs in the league, and it’s easy to see why. This year, as the Texans struggled, Watson thrived, with a statline of 33 TDs, 7 INTs, and 4823 yards.
However, all is not well in Houston. The front office hasn’t been making great decisions recently, starting with a bad trade of Houston’s #1 receiver (Deandre Hopkins), and just a few weeks ago, not involving Watson in a GM search he was told he would be a part of. If the two sides do agree to part ways, it would still be hard for Carolina to get him. For one, Watson’s no-trade clause states he needs to agree to any trade, and if he doesn’t like the Panthers, that sort of rules them out. Secondly, Carolina would have to give up a lot of draft capital, as well as likely an exciting young player such as Christian McCaffrey or DJ Moore, to even have a shot at the QB. However, if everything breaks right, #4 could be in a Panthers uniform next year.
But It Will Most Likely Be…
Teddy Bridgewater (Carolina Panthers)
While all of these shiny new QB prospects sound exciting, the reality is Bridgewater will likely be the number one guy next year. After all, it’s not like he had an abysmal season, and a potential investment in any of the four players above (with the exception of Watson) may not even be an upgrade. Ultimately, the number one goal is winning, and Bridgewater could spend out the rest of the contract as a bridge quarterback until the Panthers find someone that they know can win.