Panthers GM Scott Fitterer says club has not made decision on No. 1 overall pick yet

By Kevin Patra, Around the NFL Writer

Carolina Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer insists the club has yet to decide on the No. 1 overall selection.

Speaking to the media Tuesday for a pre-draft press conference, Fitterer said the team had clarity on its options but hadn’t reached a consensus with their board not yet finalized.

“Obviously, through this whole, since February, the combine, everything else, there’s been some clarity,” he said. “But we’ve put a conscious effort to keep an open mind about this, be continuous throughout the process. We have the last kind of group in today. We have the coaches Wednesday and Thursday of this week, and at that point, we’ll get together and kind of make that decision but we’ve got some clarity through this process.”

The Panthers are hosting C.J. Stroud and Will Levis at their facility on Tuesday.

The pervasive notion is that the Panthers have zeroed in on Alabama quarterback Bryce Young as the top selection — a belief heightened by the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner’s decision to cancel the rest of his pre-draft visits on Monday.

Fitterer said he did not communicate to Young that he’d be the pick. The Panthers GM did, however, note that he’s glad the club traded into a spot where he can have his pick of the litter.

“I’d hate being at No. 9 right now trying to figure this out,” he said.

Early in the draft process, there was some thought that Young might not mesh with Carolina head coach Frank Reich’s style, given that the coach has generally worked with bigger signal-callers.

Fitterer said he hasn’t asked Reich who his top QB is from this class but dismissed concerns about Young’s height, noting that he was in Seattle when the Seahawks drafted Russell Wilson in 2012.

“Well, I’ll say this, when Russell Wilson came out, I think he had three balls batted down his senior year, you know, Bryce had two,” Fitterer said. “If you’re just talking about Bryce, this 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. Just like C.J. evolved his game. Will evolved his game. They all develop and there’s certain tools that they have and they learn to play to their strength, and they’ve all done that.”

Fitterer noted that whomever the Panthers choose won’t be expected to come in and immediately change the franchise’s trajectory alone. It’s a team effort.

“It’s not like we’re expecting this quarterback to come in and instantly just make everything happen,” he said. “Everything changes immediately. I mean, you’ve seen it with like Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen. It takes time. And you have to surround them with the right people and you have to surround them with the right coaching, but I think we’ve done that. We’re not going to force this quarterback on the field. We’re not going to ask him to do anything they can’t do. We’re going to ask them to just play their game and deliver the ball and make the right reads and make the right decisions. So for that reason, we have spent time doing that on that No. 1 spot.”

Nine days from now, we’ll have a firm answer on who the Panthers’ No. 1 pick will be — Young or otherwise.

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