C.J. Stroud Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Through the first 12 weeks of the 2023 NFL season, it appears the Carolina Panthers may have made a mistake when they selected Bryce Young over C.J. Stroud with the No. 1 pick of the 2023 NFL Draft.

According to Panthers owner David Tepper, his franchise originally thought it would be selecting Stroud — albeit at No. 2 and not No. 1.


Entering this year’s draft, the Chicago Bears laid claim to the top pick after finishing the 2022 season with the NFL’s worst record. But with quarterback Justin Fields only entering his third season, Chicago opted to listen to offers for the pick before ultimately agreeing to a trade with Carolina.

Originally, however, the Panthers thought that they would be trading up from their original pick at No. 9 to the No. 2 pick, which was owned by the Texans. In this scenario, Houston would have traded up the No. 1 pick, which it presumably would have used to select Young, leaving Carolina to select Stroud out of Ohio State at No. 2.

Still, Tepper maintains that his franchise preferred to pick Young, who has struggled through the first 11 weeks of his rookie season.

“It’s been reported and we talk about it… originally we were going to go with the number two pick and we thought we would get C.J.,” Tepper told reporters, according to the Pro Football Network. “Listen, we prefer Bryce, he was our number one pick, we had a lot of conviction.”

Thus far, the Panthers have been the only franchise to lend voice to the three-way trade that never ultimately came to fruition, and it certainly behooves them to publicly state their interest in Stroud. While Young has struggled, Stroud hasn’t become just the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year frontrunner, but also an MVP candidate while helping lead Houston to a 6-5 record.

Obviously, there’s still a lot of football left and the book is hardly closed on Young bouncing back from his sluggish start. But it’s never a good thing when a franchise goes from taking a quarterback No. 1 to firing its head coach midway through his first season, as Carolina did when it fired Frank Reich following a 1-10 start to the 2023 campaign.

[Pro Football Network]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.