2023 NFL quarterback analysis: Carolina Panthers

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Current starter: Sam Darnold | Current backups: P.J. Walker, Matt Corral

Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold.

© Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold.

State of the position: Carolina tried — and failed — to trade for a franchise QB (Matthew Stafford, Russell Wilson) the past two seasons. Instead, it relied on a motley crew of Darnold, Baker Mayfield, and Walker. Unsurprisingly, the results were mediocre.

After a Week 11 loss at Baltimore, Carolina released Mayfield. He was 119-of-206 (57.8 percent) for 1,313 yards, six touchdowns, and six interceptions in six starts. Walker started five games in the middle of the season and went 63-of-106 (59.4 percent) for 731 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions.

Darnold flashed talent, and advanced metrics were kind to the former third overall draft pick. 

But his numbers were otherwise underwhelming in two seasons with the Panthers  — completing 325 of 546 passes (59.5 percent) for 3,670 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. As Bill Parcells might say, “He is what he is.”

In six starts to close out 2022, Darnold went 82-of-140 (58.6 percent) for 1,143 yards, seven touchdowns, and three interceptions.

The team drafted Corral in the third round (94th overall) of the 2022 NFL Draft. He suffered a Lisfranc injury during the preseason and missed the season. 

Key stat: The Panthers ranked 29th in passing yards (2,996) and attempts (457) in 2022.

2023 outlook: Carolina is $8.55 million over the cap, making it a nonfactor for a trade with the Raiders for Derek Carr. The team is better off not chasing a veteran QB for the third year in a row. Instead, the team should draft Florida QB Anthony Richardson with the ninth overall pick. 

Pro Football Focus ranks him as the 11th-best prospect. Jordan Reid of ESPN paired Richardson with the Panthers in his latest mock. Richardson was inconsistent at Florida but has the traits to become an NFL starter.

On this touchdown pass against Texas A&M, he showed incredible poise, calmly stepping up in the pocket and delivering an on-target completion. 

With Corral backing him up, Richardson would give Panthers fans hope.

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