The roster of the Carolina Panthers includes the first and third overall picks in the 2018 NFL Draft and both are quarterbacks. That is, at least for now.
It was an odd dynamic to begin with. A year ago, the Carolina Panthers traded for quarterback Sam Darnold. The franchise acquired the third-overall pick from the New York Jets for a sixth-round pick in 2021 and second- and fourth-round selections in April.
The former USC standout comes off an injury-marred season in which he played 12 games (11 starts), hitting on just 59.9 percent of his passes for 2,527 yards. There were nine touchdown passes compared to 13 interceptions. And he lost four of his nine fumbles, finishing with 17 of the club’s 29 turnovers.
This offseason, the Panthers were able to acquire 2018 first overall pick Baker Mayfield from the Cleveland Browns got a conditional fifth-round pick in 2024. Let the competition begin.
Meanwhile, NFL insider Benjamin Allbright originally reported that Carolina might be shopping Darnold. While a differing source altered that opinion slightly, it still speaks volumes as to Darnold’s placement in Carolina’s locker room.
Trade or not, it would be a surprise to see Darnold beat out Mayfield.
Panthers: Baker Mayfield has the advantage of being new
Injuries and inconsistent quarterback play cost Matt Rhule’s team dearly in 2021. All told, only three teams in the league scored fewer points than the Panthers this past season. And only the Houston Texans and New York Giants managed fewer total yards per game. Darnold’s four-year track record has been plagued by illness, injury and inconsistency.
Of course, Mayfield has had his own issues but was part of a fairly successful season in 2020 in Cleveland. He tried to play through injury a year ago and it was costly. Meanwhile, that aforementioned fifth-year option mentioned by Allbright for Darnold adds up to 18.8 million (via Spotrac).
This is a football team that comes off a 5-12 showing in 2021 after a 3-0 start this past season. In some ways, if the quarterback situation is settled, so much the better. The key will be if Mayfield is healthy and can be the player he was in 2020 and not the battered performer who arguably tried to do too much this past year.