The Carolina Panthers shelled out $63 million to Teddy Bridgewater last offseason in hopes that they had found their new franchise QB. Fifteen mediocre starts later and whether or not Bridgewater is the guy is still an open question.
And it's one the Panthers will have to answer sooner rather than later. Holding the No. 8 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Carolina should have plenty of talented signal-callers to choose from once April rolls around.
If the Panthers are looking to head in a new direction next season, as Matt Rhule's recent comments suggest they might be, here are the three QBs Carolina needs to target in the NFL Draft.
3. Mac Jones, Alabama Crimson Tide
Pulling the trigger on Mac Jones at No. 8 overall might be a bit of a reach, but the Panthers could easily trade down. Besides, if a team is 100% sold on a quarterback, it's never too early to go get your guy. And Jones might be Rhule's. A 2020 Heisman finalist, the 22-year-old was tremendous in his first full season as Alabama's starter. He threw for 4,036 yards with 36 TDs to 4 INTs while completing a blistering 77.0% of his passes. His ability to play solid, mistake-free football could be attractive to Rhule, who clearly targeted Bridgewater after he excelled in that role with the New Orleans Saints.
2. Trey Lance, North Dakota State Bison
While Jones could be a guy that comes into the league and hits the ground running, Trey Lance is viewed as a long-term project. But that could be attractive to Carolina as well. For one, Bridgewater carries a dead cap hit of $20 million next season, so he's probably sticking with the team for one more year regardless of what Carolina does in the offseason. That figure falls to a more palatable $5 million in 2022. That could really benefit Lance, who could learn a ton from watching a vet like Bridgewater. And if things eventually click for him, watch out. The North Dakota State QB possesses a cannon for an arm and was athletic enough to run for 1,100 yards and 14 TDs on the ground in 2019. He also tossed 28 TDs to 0 INTs. But Lance only played one (relatively uninspiring) game in 2020, as North Dakota State's season was cancelled due to the pandemic. An athletic freak with every tool a QB needs, Lance is a high-risk, high-reward pick, but he'd raise the ceiling of this team in a way that Bridgewater can't.
1. Zach Wilson, BYU Cougars
Zach Wilson probably isn't going to be on the board for the Panthers at No. 8 overall, but crazier things have happened. And trading up is always an option, especially since Wilson feels like a perfect fit for what Carolina does offensively. He generated some real Heisman buzz at times, throwing for 3,699 yards and 33 TDs to just 3 INTs as a Junior at BYU, adding another 10 TDs on the ground. With great mobility, an above-average, lively arm and an ability to thrive operating out of the spread, Wilson looks like the ideal fit for Rhule's offense. As a prospect, he's the perfect marriage of the pros and cons that the other two names on this list carry, but acquiring him will likely come at a steep price. Still, it's one Carolina should be willing to pay.
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Max Staley is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Max Staley also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mstaley1212. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.