Christian McCaffrey Trade Just Set Panthers up for a Huge Move at Quarterback

The Christian McCaffrey trade might be the biggest move in Carolina Panthers’ history. Yes, trading the face of the franchise is a big deal and will have long-lasting implications. However, the most intriguing part of this Panthers trade is what it sets the team up for in the future. Panthers owner David Tepper knows that an NFL team is nothing without a franchise quarterback. And this move was all about getting one as soon as possible.

The Carolina Panthers now have the picks to trade up in the 2023 NFL Draft 

NBA franchises have long been run like a hedge fund. Every player and every pick are seen simply as assets. The more assets you acquire, the more chances you have to combine those assets for one big asset with massive potential.

The NFL hasn’t quite gotten to that point yet. But the league is on its way, and hedge fund billionaire/Panthers owner David Tepper is leading that charge.

After trading Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers for four draft picks (h/t ESPN), the Panthers’ war chest of picks now looks like this:

  • 2023: first, second, second (via 49ers), third (via 49ers), fourth, fourth (via 49ers), fifth
  • 2024: first, second, third, fifth (via Titans), fifth (via 49ers), sixth (via Cardinals)
  • 2025: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh (via Cardinals), seventh

In Tepper’s world — and the world of the NFL draft, which still uses a modified version of the Jimmy Johnson trade value chart — all these picks have a value associated with them, and the Panthers can now package them together to go from a top 10 pick to a top one or two picks in the 2023 NFL Draft to get their franchise signal-caller.

Now the question becomes, what has to happen for the Panthers to be able to package these picks and turn them into a QB1?

Who can the Panthers trade up with? 

Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper talks with running back Christian McCaffrey.
David Tepper and Christian McCaffrey | David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/TNS

The 2023 NFL Draft will feature a quarterback-heavy first round. But David Tepper doesn’t just want to take the best signal-caller on the board when the Panthers pick. He wants the cream of the crop prospect.

There are a few scenarios where the Panthers will be able to get the No. 1 or No. 2 pick and one scenario where they will not.

Scenario one is that the 1-5 Panthers sell off all their assets this season, continue to tank, and get the No. 1 or 2 pick in the next draft. This is ideal because then they could pick the QB they want and use all the other selections to build an offense around that player.

Scenario two is that a team that isn’t interested in a quarterback gets one of the top two spots, and the Panthers can package these picks to move up. Looking at the NFL standings between Week 6 and Week 7, there are several ways this could happen.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, and Jacksonville Jaguars could all end up with a top pick in 2023 and would be happy to move a few spots back to pick up a bunch of picks and still likely get their favorite non-QB. Same with the Philadelphia Eagles, who own the 2-5 New Orleans Saints first-rounder.

The Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders, and Chicago Bears might fall in this category, too, depending on where they end the season with Russell Wilson, Derek Carr, and Justin Fields.

The worst-case scenario is if the Houston Texans, Detroit Lions, or Washington Commanders jump “ahead” of the Panthers for the top selections. If these teams are there, poised to draft a QB, no amount of second- and third-round picks will get them off of it.

What QBs are available at the top of the 2023 NFL Draft? 

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In a way, it’s fortuitous that the Panthers’ implosion and subsequent fire sale happened in 2022. The QB class of 2021 seems like it’s turning out to be surprisingly shaky, and the group drafted in 2022 doesn’t seem all that special.

However, the QB Class of 2023 seems like it could be a doozy.

A bunch of college QBs could go in the first round this year. Will Levis (Kentucky), Jaren Hall (BYU), Tanner McKee (Stanford), D.J. Uiagalelei (Clemson), Tyler Van Dyke (Miami), Hendon Hooker (Tennessee), and Anthony Richardson (Florida) could all potentially fall into this category.

The real draws, though, are Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud.

Both these prospects are accurate, athletic, and have poise in the pocket. They also both have NFL arms and have shown the leadership and confidence in college it takes to make it in the NFL.

There hasn’t been a more talented duo of 1-2 quarterback prospects at the top of the draft since 2012 with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. They are two prospects worth tanking for and worth gutting your team (to get picks) for, which is what David Tepper and the Panthers just did with the Christian McCaffrey trade.

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