CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Carolina Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer said the team has no reservations about Bryce Young’s size as it begins to finalize a decision on who’ll be the No. 1 overall pick in next week’s NFL draft.
The Panthers are also considering three other quarterbacks — Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Florida’s Anthony Richardson and Kentucky’s Will Levis — but Young has emerged as the strong favorite despite his 5-foot-10 stature.
Young is listed as a strong favorite to be the top pick, per Fan Duel Sportsbook.
Fitterer compared Young to the 5-foot-11 Russell Wilson, whom he helped draft in 2012 while a member of the Seattle Seahawks front office. Wilson has won a Super Bowl and is a nine-time Pro Bowl selection.
“When Russell Wilson came out he had three balls batted down his senior year; Bryce had two,” Fitterer said Tuesday during a pre-draft news conference. “It doesn’t seem to be an issue. When you grow up a shorter quarterback you learn how to evolve your game and adapt and see the field. And he’s done that.”
Young played at Alabama at 194 pounds, although he weighed in at 204 pounds at the NFL combine.
Fitterer doesn’t see that being an issue either.
“Nutritionally we can do some things to educate him, get him in the weight room,” Fitterer said. “When you look at his lower body it has gotten bigger. He’s put on a lot of mass down there. A lot of times quarterbacks don’t want to lift on the upper body because you get a little bound up (up top). But he’s going to naturally put on size as he ages as well.”
Fitterer pointed out Wilson has gained about 15 pounds since coming into the league.
Panthers assistant general manager Dan Morgan said it’s important to take more than size into account when making a decision at quarterback.
“You have to have those pocket instincts, the ability to slide, find passing lanes,” Morgan said. “So you have to look at other things like that and then obviously how smart and how well a quarterback sees the field is also important.”
The NFL Network reported Monday that Young canceled all of his remaining visits with teams after meeting with only the Panthers and Houston Texans, who have the No. 2 pick.
That has led to rampant speculation the Panthers have informed Young he’ll be their pick.
Fitterer denied that, saying that was a decision Young made on his own.
“We’re going through the whole process,” Fitterer said. “We’re sticking to it. We’re not jumping the gun and going to make any decisions. We need every piece of information we can to make the most informed decision.
“It’s not done, and it won’t be done until later this week.”
But the Panthers did little to dissuade the notion that Young is the favorite to be the first quarterback taken No. 1 overall by the franchise since Cam Newton in 2011. Most of the 30-minute news conference focused around Fitterer, Morgan and director of college scouting Cole Spencer answering questions about the Young, the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner.
Fitterer said he and head coach Frank Reich will have final say over the No. 1 pick.
He said he still hasn’t asked Reich who he prefers, largely because he wants both to keep an open mind.
“I think we do see things the same way,” Fitterer said. “We value the same things in quarterbacks, the same traits and the same characteristics. There are certain things that we really want and that is where the clarity comes from.”
At least one thing appears for certain: the Panthers have no intentions of trading down from the top spot after sending four draft picks and wide receiver D.J. Moore to the Chicago Bears to move up eight spots.
“As of right now I don’t see us trading the pick,” Fitterer said. “We will always pick up the phone but I think we are in a position where we like where we are at.”
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