ESPN Journalist Claims Shake-Up at Top of Draft

The 2023 NFL Draft Could Get Chaotic Very Quickly
Nov 26, 2022; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) warms up before the Iron Bowl game with Auburn at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports.

Maybe it won’t be C.J. Stroud after all?

That’s the latest and greatest theory from ESPN regarding the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Carolina Panthers traded the farm to the Chicago Bears for the draft’s first pick last month, and Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer is nearly guaranteed to select a quarterback.

ESPN Journalist Claims Shake-Up at Top of Draft

Since the trade, most folks and mock-draft personalities have surmised that C.J. Stroud will be “the guy” for Carolina at No. 1. But ESPN journalist Chris Mortensen poured some cold water on the theory Thursday.

ESPN Journalist Claims
May 24, 2022; Santa Ana, California USA; Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young of Alabama (2021) at press conference during the Mater Dei High Heisman Homecoming ceremony at the Meruelo Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

“The Panthers were on Bryce Young at the start and will stick with him when it’s time to turn in that card,” Mortensen declared on ESPN airwaves.

Young, to the naked eye, has all the traits required as a franchise quarterback in the NFL, and the only knock on his resume is size. He’s not a strapping, prototypical passer measuring 6’4″ or so. He’s in the 5’10”-5’11” range, which tends to scare some general managers.

After the Panthers-Bears trade, Young has been close to a lock to the Houston Texans with the No. 2 pick, but the Mortensen theory obviously pumps the breaks. If Young is selected first by Carolina, the Texans would have to pivot to C.J. Stroud from Ohio State, Will Levis of Kentucky, stretch for Florida’s Anthony Richardson — or not draft a quarterback at all.

Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (1) chases Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) out of bounds in the third quarter during the College Football Playoff semifinal game at the 86th Cotton Bowl Classic, Friday, Dec. 31, 2021, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. © Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Also on the show with Mortensen was draft extraordinaire Mel Kiper, and he seemed unconvinced that Young was the guy for the Panthers, “When you look at this thing, it really boils down to Frank Reich. Frank Reich’s gotta feel comfortable with this pick, this player.”

Kiper mock-drafted Young to Houston at No. 2 in his latest mock draft.

From a Minnesota Vikings standpoint, the Mortensen mini-bomb has one possible implication. If the Vikings are indeed in the mood to trade into the Top 10 for the quarterback proceeding Kirk Cousins, Stroud’s availability, perhaps at No. 3, is intriguing. The Arizona Cardinals own the third overall pick and assuredly don’t need a quarterback because they handed Kyler Murray a five-year, $230.5 million extension last summer. He’s their guy, at least for now.

Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud throws for NFL representatives during Ohio State football s pro day at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus on March 22, 2023. © Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK.

If Mortensen is correct with the Young-to-Panthers revelation and the Texans don’t choose Stroud at No. 2, Minnesota could theoretically trade three 1st-Rounders and an extra mid-round pick to Arizona for Stroud, who is considered by most draft pundits the safest play at quarterback in this draft. And just like that, the Vikings will have created their largest quarterback splash in franchise history.

Remember, too, about two weeks ago, former Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis said about Carolina’s draft plans, “I think it’s gonna be a very, very surprising pick in Carolina. I just know that there are a couple of guys upstairs that are enamored by the physical ability of Anthony Richardson. I’ll just say that.”

Anything funky by the Panthers — basically not drafting Stroud — could open the door to Stroud for the Vikings (if they’re interested in him in the first place).

Vikings fans would support it or could warm up to it:

The NFL draft is three weeks away.

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 Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

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