The closer we get to the 2023 NFL draft, the likelier it seems the Carolina Panthers will have to jump up for a quarterback. That feeling is no different in Mel Kiper’s latest set of first-round projections.
On Tuesday, the ESPN football analyst and OG draftnik released his third mock of the offseason. And speaking of “third,” he has the Panthers making the third trade of his forecast—up to the No. 5 spot to select Will Levis of the University of Kentucky.
“Levis isn’t loved by every NFL scout, but his potential is really high,” he writes. “He has a cannon for an arm, even if he can be a little sloppy with the ball at times. He played in a pro-style offense for the Wildcats and didn’t have much elite talent around him, especially along the offensive line. Will he excel once he gets around a step up in talent? That’s a bet a team will be willing to take. Carolina will have a chance to build around him, starting this offseason. If the Panthers choose to stay at No. 9, by the way, keep an eye on a pass-rusher. Tight end is a need, too, but that’s early for one, even in a talented class.”
Kiper took Levis for Carolina after Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s CJ Stroud were snatched up with the first and second overall picks, respectively. That selection also left Florida’s Anthony Richardson, who has been linked to the Panthers quite a bit lately, still on the board.
Nonetheless, Levis heads into the NFL with some high upside of his own. The 6-foot-3, 222-pounder has the tools to serve as a dual-threat passer at the next level.