Bryce Young vs John Elway vs Jack Trudeau vs Ryan Leaf vs Eli Manning vs Alex Smith

NFL 2023 Draft – What If Carolina Had Not Made The Trade For The #1 Pick & Bryce Young?

Looking back on the NFL 2023 Draft after the season is over leads to some interesting speculation.  Clearly the biggest positive talking point from the draft is C.J. Stroud.  He was the 2nd QB taken but played like a seasoned veteran even when surrounded by young inexperienced players like himself.

The biggest negative talking point has to be the play of Bryce Young.  The Carolina Panthers mortgaged the future to get the #1 pick from Chicago, trading WR D.J. Moore, first- and second-round selections (9th and 61st), 2024 first-round and 2025 second-round selections.  Young had a tough rookie season playing behind a pourous offensive line and with an inadequate WR group outside Adam Thielen.

Here is a breakdown of Young’s 2023 NFL season compared to other disappointing rookie QB seasons in the past.

Bryce Young vs John Elway vs Jack Trudeau vs Ryan Leaf vs Eli Manning vs Alex Smith
Bryce Young vs John Elway vs Jack Trudeau vs Ryan Leaf vs Eli Manning vs Alex Smith


Comparing Bryce Young’s 2023 NFL Season vs Other Rookie QB Seasons

So compared to other rookie seasons, like HoF QBs like Elway, 2 time SB Champ Eli Manning, Young’s season matches up favorably.  Compared to a couple notable busts in Jack Trudeau and Ryan Leaf, Young’s season is clearly superior in almost every metric.

Without an accurate crystal ball, I think it is fair to say that we have no idea what kind of pro Bryce Young will end up being based solely on his 2023 rookie statistics.  But there are some reasons for concern when looking at his splits.

Bryce Young Didn’t Get Any Better As The Season Progressed

Bryce Young Quarter Season Splits
Bryce Young Quarter Season Splits


You can season by his quarter season splits that Young didn’t show any real progress later in the season.   His quarter season splits are all remarkably similar in how below average they are, but there does not seem to be any progression as the season wore on.

Bryce Young in games 1 – 4:

  • Sacks 11
  • Yards/Game 167.7
  • Yards / Attempt 4.88
  • AY/A 4.40
  • Passer rating 75.0

Bryce Young in games 13 – 17:

  • Sacks 18
  • Yards/Game 164.4
  • Yards / Attempt 5.63
  • AY/A 5.60
  • Passer rating 75.2

Bryce Young On 2nd & Long and 3rd & Long

Bryce Young Down Distance Splits
Bryce Young Down Distance Splits


Young is particularly bad on 2nd & long, which in turn leads to 3rd and long, or longer if he took a sack.  Young has a passer rating of 52.5 on 2nd & 7-9 yards and a rating of 55.2 on 2nd & 10+ yards.

Compared to other quarterback, here are Bryce Young’s down & distance passer rating rankings:

  • 2nd & 7-9 yards : 34th
  • 2nd & 10+ yards: 41st
  • 3rd & 7-9 yards: 29th
  • 3rd & 10+ yards: 24th
NFL 2023 QB 2nd & 7-9 yards Stats
NFL 2023 QB 2nd & 7-9 yards Stats
NFL 2023 QB 2nd & 10+ yards Stats
NFL 2023 QB 2nd & 10+ yards Stats
NFL 2023 QB 3rd & 7-9 yards Stats
NFL 2023 QB 3rd & 7-9 yards Stats
NFL 2023 QB 3rd & 10+ yards Stats
NFL 2023 QB 3rd & 10+ yards Stats


Mock 2023 Draft If The Panthers Had Not Made The Trade For The #1 Pick & Bryce Young

NFL 2023 Mock Draft If Carolina Does Not Trade For #1 Pick
NFL 2023 Mock Draft If Carolina Does Not Trade For #1 Pick


The top chart shows the NFL 2023 Top 10 Picks.  The bottom graph is a mock draft assuming that Carolina had not made the trade.  What assumptions were made?

  1. The Colts won the bidding war for the #1 pick.  Why?  The Bears convinced them someone else was moving up to grab Richardson or Young.
  2. The Colts had Richardson or Young as their top rated QB and would take both over Stroud regardless of slot if available.
  3. Houston has Stroud as their #2 QB which they apparently did.

Now let’s walk through picks 4 through 10 with the assumption that either Richardson or Young were available starting at pick 4.

Pick 4 – Chicago Bears (from Colts)

The Bears could sit at #4 and get the best OT available.  The chose an OT at #10, with assurance that the Eagles would not select him, so they could either take Wright or Johnson Jr.  I went with Johnson Jr. in the mock.

Carolina could have also now traded up to #4 to get either Young or Richardson.  The cost would have been far less, but would have included the #9 pick.  Whether it would have cost the 2024 1st round pick is questionable.

The Walter chart says the move up from 9 to 4 costs 450 points.  The 45th pick in the draft is worth 450 points, so the move was worth a little less than Carolina’s 2nd round pick in 2024 which was the 39th selection(not traded in the trade for pick #1).  Only if Carolina was foolish and pushed back the pick to 2024 AND overpaid, would it have cost the 2024 1st round pick.

Pick 5 Seattle Seahawks

There is no reason to think that the Seahawks would have bailed on Geno Smith and traded up to take a QB.  Let’s assume they did what they did on draft day and traded up for Witherspoon who showed great potential in 2023.

Pick 6 Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals moved up to get an OT when Paris Johnson Jr. was there. If they had interest in Darnell Wright, they trade up to take him.  This is the option chosen in the mock draft.

If they had no interest in Darnell Wright, then this trade is off and the Rams stay here.

Would the Rams have spent the #6 pick on a QB to groom post Stafford?  This is possible, but the Rams were looking at 2023 as a rebuild year due to salary cap issues and lack of draft picks.  It is very possible they would have traded out of this pick or selected a piece that they could play and get experience in their system.

Pick 7 Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders are another wild card.  Would they have taken Young or Richardson with this pick?  I would have to think they would have been tempted to do so.  This really depends on the grades they had on either Richardson or Young vs Levis & O’Connell.

They could think that Richardson or Young were franchise QBs and taken the remaining one.  They could have been swayed by Carolina to drop down to #9 where the could still get Wilson and pick up Carolina’s later 2nd round pick #61(traded to the Bears in the trade for pick #1).

Pick 8 Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons seemed delighted to pick Robinson, so no reason to think they would have changed their mind with Ridder waiting for his opportunity.  Looking back now, a QB would have been a better pick than a RB, but they believed in Ridder and would have played their hand that way.

Pick 9 Carolina Panthers

So here are the 3 options facing the Panthers had they not traded for the #1 pick.

  1. Trade up to #4 with the Bears.  It will cost the #39 pick and maybe a late round sweetener depending on the bidding going on.  There is a possibility the Bears could have talked the Panthers out of the 2024 1st round pick here, but Carolina should have seen that would have been a huge overpayment according to the draft points chart.
  2. Trade up to #6 Rams or #7 Raiders.  I am sure the Panthers would have been able to read the room and determing if the move to #6 or #7 was needed or on the cards.  By the Walter chart, the cost for moving up to #6 was an early 3rd round 2023 pick and moving up to #7 was a late 2023 3rd round pick.  If the Panthers wanted to trade 2024 picks i would normally cost them a round, so it would be 2024 2nd round picks.
  3. Sit at #9 and take the remaining QB, either Young or Richardson.  This most likely would have been Richardson if one of them were to have fallen to #9.

Pick 10 Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles sit at #10 and take Jalen Carter.

2023 Mock Draft Summary

Barring getting swindled out of the 2024 1st round pick by the Bears for the #4 pick, the Panthers made a giant miscalculation on the both the value of the #1 pick and who to take with it.  Clearly Stround was the correct choice for #1 based on 2023 statistics, so the Panthers choose the wrong guy.

But far more damaging is that they seemingly overpaid dearly for the wrong guy.  The best play was to sit and wait to see who jumped to #1 in a trade with the Bears OR to get the #1 pick cheaply if the Bears couldn’t find any suitors willing to overpay.  Unfortunately for the Panthers, the Bears did find someone to overpay for the #1 pick.  Equally unfortunately, is that it was the Panthers who overpaid and then compounded the error by choosing the wrong QB.

If the Panthers has simply satyed put, or traded up to #4, #6 or #7 they would have both a rookie QB and their 2024 first round pick.  That means at the very worst they would be in the situation they are now, with a disappointing rookie who led them to a 2 – 15 record, but they would have the #1 pick in 2024.

This would allow the Panthers to be in the exact same position the Bears were in in 2023. With a unproven young QB they like and the #1 pick that allows the option to take a new QB or trade down for a bevy of picks to help the young QB they have and like.

Instead the Panthers are now low on draft capital with an unproven young QB who put up some unimpressive rookie statistics.  If Young doesn’t work out, the damage will simply be multiplied over the years to come.