Panthers Could Mess with Vikings Draft Plans

Panthers Could Mess with Vikings Draft Plans
Oct 17, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers tight end Ian Thomas (80) catches the ball as Minnesota Vikings middle linebacker Eric Kendricks (54), Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold, Cam Newton, and P.J. Walker have started games at quarterback for the Carolina Panthers in the last two seasons. None of those men are considered sure-fire QB1s for the 2022 season, so Carolina will likely draft a quarterback in Thursday’s draft with the sixth overall pick, right?

Not necessarily — and Carolina drafting a non-QB could mess with the Minnesota Vikings draft plans.

Gone are the days when NFL teams limp into a season with a half-measured solution at QB1. Therefore, the Panthers were whispered to be in the market for a passer like Malik Willis or Kenny Pickett in this draft. They’ve also indicated initial hesitation to trade for Baker Mayfield, one of the “hot” candidates to play elsewhere in 2022, as Cleveland traded the farm for the embattled Deshaun Watson. Mayfield is an NFL orphan for now.

So, something’s gotta give. Will the Panthers really audition Sam Darnold again? His 2021 campaign was forgettable. Probably not. Yet, one of three options will occur for Carolina heading into September:

  1. The front office will indeed pick Willis or Pickett on Thursday night
  2. A trade will occur for Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo
  3. It’s Sam Darnold or some other ho-hum free agent all over again
Dec 18, 2021; Mobile, Alabama, USA; Liberty Flames quarterback Malik Willis. Mandatory Credit: Robert McDuffie-USA TODAY Sports

On the Monday before the draft, NFL Network‘s Bridget Condon reported the Panthers are “are unlikely to use their No. 6 overall pick to draft a quarterback.”

Either that is typical pre-draft smoke, or the Panthers will choose steps two or three of the aforementioned plan.

Their choice directly affects the Vikings, who draft six selections after Carolina. While draft pundits haven’t been married to a QB for the Panthers in unison, the likelihood of general manager Scott Fitterer choosing one is reasonable. And when teams ahead of the Vikings in the draft order “reach” for quarterbacks in this draft, it is glorious news for Minnesota, shoving blue-chip, non-QB talents further down the draft board.

If Carolina does not pick Willis or Pickett, they’ll conform to conventional draft logic, selecting an offensive tackle, cornerback, or EDGE rusher — and the Vikings covet the latter two positions at #12.

You Should Want the Vikings Rival to Draft a QB
Dec 4, 2021; Charlotte, NC, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 NFL must be wonky amid the first 11 picks for Minnesota to land a true gem, at least according to draft scouting reports. Should there be no chaos — and the Panthers select the best player available — Minnesota encounters a quasi-purgatory with the 12th pick, needing to decide on a trade-down or staying put for the best player available at the time.

Overall, this is the nature of the beast leading up to a draft. Hype, lies, and misdirection. However, it was a relatively safe bet that Carolina would be one of the usual suspects to reach for a quarterback.

For now, it appears the franchise will not, and players like Kyle Hamilton or Derek Stingley Jr. are thus unlikely to tumble down toward the Vikings selection.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).