The Carolina Panthers finished the 2022 season with a 7-10 record in second place of the NFC South. That year, they fired their head coach and traded away one of the best players in franchise history. Carolina dove further into a team reset as they traded away significant draft capital and WR1 D.J. Moore for the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
With that choice, the Panthers attempted to take their quarterback of the future, selecting Bryce Young from Alabama. Young was not accustomed to losing or playing without the best talent in the league, and the transition to the NFL has been rough. The Panthers are off to a 1-8 start, with their lone victory coming over the Houston Texans and the quarterback many wished they would’ve drafted, CJ Stroud.
Young has played in eight games this season and has 1,560 yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. He tries his best to be a pocket passer, but has taken to scrambling when his dismal offensive line inevitably fails to protect him. They were ranked as the second-worst offensive line unit in the league. While it is mainly said in jest, there is some honesty to the fact that this could be his worst offensive line since leaving high school.
With the trade of Moore and McCaffrey, Carolina had to overhaul its offensive skill positions. Adam Thielen, DJ Chark, Miles Sanders and Hayden Hurst were all signed to be starters at their respective positions. Sanders scored 11 touchdowns last year with the Eagles but has lost all of that moment, tallying just one in eight games with his new team. This could be due to the O-line, but it could also be due to Young’s lack of adjustment.
With how poorly Young has played and the fact that the move to get him cost Carolina its first-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, can he be considered a bust already? Nope. It’s too soon, with a team that is in the first year of a head coach and coordinators with the focal point position players in their first year with the team. Still, what we have seen so far doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that the Panthers won’t be resetting again at the position in a few years.
There hasn’t been a good recent precedent of a quarterback struggling this poorly and going on to turn around his career after being drafted with a top-five pick in the last decade. Zach Wilson was the No. 2 selection in 2021 and has not come close to panning out for the New York Jets. Even with a surprise opportunity to take over as the starting quarterback this year, Young feels like his worst-case scenario is the path that Wilson is currently on.
Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold were taken No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in the 2018 NFL Draft. Both have bounced around the league, with Mayfield stopping in Carolina last year. Darnold is currently a backup for the San Francisco 49ers, while Mayfield is the starter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has led them to a 3-5 start this season.
Mitch Trubisky (No. 2 in 2017) is a backup for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Carson Wentz (No. 2 in 2016) just recently signed on to be Matthew Stafford’s backup with the Los Angeles Rams. Jameis Winston (No. 1 in 2015) and Marcus Mariota (No. 2 that year) are both backups in the league, with Winston on the New Orleans Saints and Mariota with the Philadelphia Eagles. Plenty of quarterbacks have struggled as rookies, but if Young doesn’t start showing some promise or a turnaround, it could already seal the fate of his career. Is he a bust now? Nope. Is he off to a bad start that should have fans worried? Yes.