The Carolina Panthers are gearing up to make the rounds on the top quarterback prospects heading into the 2022 NFL Draft. The club will have Liberty's Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett out of Pitt, Ole Miss' Matt Corral, Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder, Sam Howell out of UNC, and Bailey Zappe of Western Kentucky in Charlotte next week for visits, according to The MMQB. Those visits will be staggered throughout the week beginning on Monday and running through Wednesday.
Carolina owns the No. 6 overall pick at this year's draft, and quarterback is still a major hole on its roster. Sam Darnold is one of the two quarterbacks currently on the roster, as he is set to play the 2022 season on his fifth-year option that the Panthers picked up last year following a trade with the New York Jets. That option will pay Darnold more than $18.8 million fully guaranteed for the year. Meanwhile, P.J. Walker is other signal-caller on the roster.
While the Panthers may have hoped that Darnold could be a long-term answer under center upon making that deal with New York, it never materialized. He went 4-7 in his 11 starts and completed 59.9% of his passes with a career-low 71.9 passer rating. Naturally, that performance during the 2021 season had Carolina looking elsewhere at QB this offseason. The team tried to enter the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes but was out of the running for his services in relatively short order.
All that has the Panthers now going knee-deep into this year's quarterback class to try and find someone who the franchise can build around over the long haul.
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CBS Sports Senior NFL Draft analyst Ryan Wilson has the Panthers being the first team at this year's draft to select a quarterback, plucking Willis at No. 6 overall in his latest mock draft. Other CBS Sports draft analysts have Pickett being the choice at that spot in their mocks, and the quarterback himself recently said that he believes he will be the first signal-caller picked later this month.
Of course, any team could try and trade up to snatch a quarterback, but with the way the draft order is currently constituted, the Panthers only truly need to worry about the Detroit Lions at No. 2 overall. The Jaguars (Trevor Lawrence), Texans (Davis Mills), Jets (Zach Wilson), and Giants (Daniel Jones) all have young quarterbacks already on their roster that they'll most likely head into 2022 with.
Detroit has veteran Jared Goff under contract, so it could try to find a quarterback at No. 2, but most mocks have the team addressing another area on the roster with that selection. For instance, Wilson has the Lions taking Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker at No. 2 and then circling back at QB with their second first-rounder by taking Howell at No. 32.
If they follow that path, Carolina should have its pick of the litter of the quarterbacks it'll get some one-on-one time with next week.