Next Three (Pro) Days Could Separate Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis For NFL Teams

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The next three days could be the climax of the college Pro Day season for NFL teams needing a quarterback and holding a high first-round pick.

Quarterback C.J. Stroud will be working out for scouts at the Ohio State Pro Day after throwing in Indianapolis. And great things are expected from him because last year when scouts visited Ohio State to watch receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave work out, many left awed with the performance Stroud put on throwing them the football.

Quarterback Bryce Young will be working out for teams at the University of Alabama Pro Day on Thursday. And that’s the first time many will get a chance to see him throw because he didn’t do that at last month’s NFL Combine.

Quarterback Will Levis will be working out for teams at the Kentucky Pro Day on Friday. And after he threw at the Combine, wowing many with his elite arm strength, the expectation now is to see him deliver touch passes and show more throws outside the pocket because that’s what some atop the draft are wondering about.

So the next three days is going to be a show and a showdown of the top quarterbacks.

The Carolina Panthers will watch C.J. Stroud at Ohio State Pro Day. (Credit: Getty Images)
Panthers start Pro Day circuit with look at C.J. Stroud. (Credit: Getty Images)

Scouts Loved C.J. Stroud At Last Year’s Pro Day

And, not surprisingly, every team with designs on drafting a quarterback in the first round will attend all three Pro Days.

Come to think it some teams that may not currently have high enough picks for one of these guys — the New Orleans Saints, who pick No. 29, for example — will attend these three workouts. The Saints are sending eight representatives to the Ohio State Pro Day on Wednesday, per the school.

The Carolina Panthers, holding the No. 1 overall selection in next month’s draft, will make the trek to Columbus, OH., Tuscaloosa, AL., and Lexington, KY.

So will the Houston Texans, who have the No. 2 pick. And the Colts (No. 4 overall) and Seahawks (No. 5) overall.

And generally we’re not talking just scouts showing up. We’re talking each team’s entire kitten caboodle making these trips.

The Panthers are going to be represented by head coach Frank Reich and general manager Scott Fitterer and that’s it.

No, that’s not it.

Carolina Panthers need a QB to go with solid defense.
A reflection of the Bank of America Stadium is seen in the visor of Brian Burns #53 of the Carolina Panthers before the game against the Arizona Cardinals on October 02, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Panthers Need Great QB To Go With Defense

Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, quarterback coach Josh McCown, senior assistant Jim Caldwell, and assistant general manager Dan Morgan are also expected at all three stops. The Panthers actually will have 14 people at the Ohio State Pro Day Wednesday, per the school.

Yeah, these Pro Day workouts are a big deal to the Panthers, because they badly need a QB to complement their defense. And Because they have to figure out which quarterback they’re going to take after trading the contents of Fort Knox to go from the No. 9 overall selection to No. 1.

“We had to do what we had to do to get in this position,” Fitterer said. “We at the Combine said if you’re going to go up you better have conviction. And we have conviction on players at that top we feel good about. We feel good about being in this position.”

Reich describes the Panthers position as being “in the driver’s seat.”

“We don’t have to play games,” he said.

But no one in the organization is saying (leaking) which guy will be No. 1. Reich wouldn’t even divulge the deep-dive critical factors he wants to see from his next quarterback, saying that would be akin to divulging “the proprietary formula for Kentucky Fried Chicken.”

Bryce Young will either be the first or second player selected in the draft.
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young answers questions from the media during the NFL Scouting Combine on March 3, 2023, at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Bryce Young Or C.J. Stroud To Panthers?

Multiple NFL people have told OutKick the Panthers have to know who they’re picking because no one gives up as much in trade as they did without having a target player in mind. Fitterer says that’s close but there’s more to see.

“We’re still going through the process right now,” he said. “Obviously, we have our ideas. You’re not going to make a move like that without having that pretty much cemented. But now we’re going through the process of talking to the players and really getting to know them.

“You know them as players starting back a couple of years when your scouts start watching these guys, evaluating them. We got a snapshot at the Combine where you get 18 minutes talking to them. But really we want to get to know them, what drives them, who’s supporting them, who’s in their family.

“So this is an important time to go through this process. We do feel good about the group up top.”

The Texans will attend Pro Days for Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Will Levis.
Houston Texans general manager Nic Caserio before the Houston Texans play the Los Angeles Chargers at NRG Stadium on October 02, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Texans Like Both Young and Stroud

The Texans general manager Nick Caserio must choose from whatever quarterback the Panthers do not pick. But even now, they don’t exactly feel like they’re getting sloppy seconds if the decision is either Young or Stroud.

“I’ll stay away from strengths and weaknesses,” said Texans assistant director of player personnel and college scouting director James Liipfert. “I would say at the end of the day, they are both productive players, and they played in big games and they both shined in big games.

“Those are guys, along with a lot of guys in this draft, they check a production box and they’re both good dudes. I’ve talked to both of them, and I would say they’re both good guys. I like both of them…Those guys, tip of the cap to their programs.

“They came in as two young bucks from California to the state of Alabama and the state of Ohio. That’s easier said than done in two big-time programs, and they both did a nice job. I enjoyed watching these last couple of years, and we’ll see what their future holds.”

Aside from watching Stroud, Young and Levis throw, the personal interaction with each is important to the Panthers. They’ll meet with each the night before, perhaps over dinner.

Kentucky's Will Levis will have his Pro Day on Friday.
Will Levis of the Kentucky Wildcats against the Georgia Bulldogs at Kroger Field on November 19, 2022 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

An Exercise In Getting To Know You

And there will be conversations with other folks within each program that will also matter.

“Talking to, it could be their equipment guy, talking to the head coach, it doesn’t matter,” Fitterer said. “What do you think of this person? How does he treat people? How does he carry himself every day, are there a lot of ups and downs?

“Our scouts know a lot of that, but it’s good to hear it first hand on the Pro Day circuit.”

Multiple teams expect to come out of these next few Pro Days with a ranking on these quarterbacks. Those will be confirmed again when teams bring each player in for visits in early April. The Panthers will meet with all four top quarterbacks at their facility.

Yes, four.

Florida’s Anthony Richardson will be included in the mix. And not just with the Panthers. He is expected to be selected in the first round as well.

His Pro Day is March 30.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

One Comment

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  1. I see these QBs and all I think of are Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, and Sam Darnold. All the hype because the experts, aka Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, have deemed them worthy. Maybe someone like Stetson Bennett, Anthony Richardson, or Hendon Hooker can be the next Lamar Jackson or Josh Allen.

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