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Home » Panthers shouldn't draft a QB just for 2022 – Panthers Wire

Panthers shouldn't draft a QB just for 2022 – Panthers Wire

What’s good for the goose may not be good for the panther.
Our goose is Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule—who has happened to waddle upon some pretty hot pavement here in 2022. That’s because he’s led the gander—following a fleeting moment or two of hope during his short run—to a pair of foul five-win campaigns.
Headlined by his damaging investments under center in Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Darold, both of which have had lasting effects on the franchise outside of their underwhelming play, Rhule’s reign is very much on the line this upcoming season. But that doesn’t mean the Panthers should now spend its most valuable remaining resource to save it.
There’s an enduring assumption that Carolina must use the draft’s sixth overall pick on a quarterback. Factoring in the team’s obvious need at the position, their failure to add literally any competition to Darnold and Rhule’s job insecurity—the feel around the league is that they’ve pigeonholed themselves into earmarking their first-rounder on the most pro-ready passer.
According to most draftniks, that would be University of Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett—who already has a connection to Rhule himself. Pickett, by many measures, is what you’d consider a “safe” option.
Draft Wire’s Natalie Miller detailed the 23-year-old as such—describing Pickett as having an “extremely high floor” given his accuracy, touch and football IQ. There are, however, legitimate doubts about the 2021 Heisman Trophy finalist being more than just “a guy.”
“While sufficient, Pickett’s arm isn’t elite, which leads one to wonder if he can routinely make top-shelf NFL throws on the boundary,” Miller writes in her scouting report. “His smaller hands have been much maligned, but not without reason, as he fumbled the ball 38 times during his college career.
“His one season of massive production does also run counter to his prior years of mediocre numbers, which could cast doubt as to whether or not he was a flash in the pan more than a prospect who can have sustained success at the next level.”
So, do you want “a guy” or someone who can be “the guy” with that high-stakes selection? Do you want a quarterback whose most touted positive is “making the easy throws” or one who at least has a chance at being a stud that can make all the throws?
Would you rather have a Jimmy Garoppolo or a Trey Lance? The 49ers answered that.
Would you rather have a Jared Goff or a Matthew Stafford? The Rams answered that.
Would you rather have a Tua Tagovailoa or a Justin Herbert? Just about the entire league has answered that.
You probably know where we’re going with this now. Yes, Liberty University’s Malik Willis is that one—the one with the natural ability, the one with the unteachable traits, the one with the highest of ceilings.
And although his lower level of collegiate competition as well as what’ll likely be a redshirt year of sorts in 2022, Willis is the clay—with his rocket launcher of an arm, electric set of legs and magnetic personality—that can be molded into being the guy.
“Willis has legitimate arm strength to cut through weather conditions, squeeze throws into tight windows, or deliver rainbow balls deep down the field,” Miller notes in her evaluation of Willis. “His release is tight and fast, leading to excellent RPO opportunities and quick timing passes. He has touch that remains understated due to his receivers dropping balls and better defensive backs winning routes, but Willis consistently delivers high-level downfield/mid-field layered throws.
“He can throw at any angle, and when flushed from the pocket, Willis can deliver off-balance throws from awkward positions, and still find his target.”
If Pickett is what the majority of folks project him to be, Carolina could end up having a Jimmy G situation of their own. Yeah, cool, he makes all the choreographed passes. But is he a quarterback who elevate the players around him and doesn’t need it to be the other way around?
In fact, the Panthers don’t even have to take a quarterback to find that caliber of talent. There are a handful of other prospects, at premium spots, that are absolutely worthy of that No. 6 pick.
At least one of the offensive tackles in Evan Neal, Ikem Ekwonu and Charles Cross, the defensive ends in Kayvon Thibodeaux and Travon Walker or cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner will be there for the taking. And each of them, with extremely appealing traits of their own, can quickly grow into long-term pillars.
This all boils down to making the right pick for the Panthers, not just for Matt Rhule—because 2022 might be for the birds at this point. Outside of somehow adding Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady—are we to believe Carolina can seriously contend anyway?
This could also all be moot if the team’s braintrust sees more than just a dude in Pickett. Perhaps they believe he can develop into a star. Perhaps many folks are wrong, and his athleticism and skill set can burst through whatever ceiling that’s been set for him.
But if that’s the way the Panthers go and if that’s the way to yet another ultimate shortcoming at quarterback, both the goose and the gander will be up a creek. They only have one egg to spend in the draft’s first three rounds—so they better make it count.
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