Sam Darnold Told by Panthers GM There's 'Pretty Good Chance' Team Drafts QB

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIApril 26, 2022

Carolina Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Another quarterback change appears imminent in Charlotte.

Carolina Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer told reporters in a predraft conference Tuesday that he spoke with incumbent starter Sam Darnold the day before and that he said "there's a pretty good chance" the team selected a quarterback in this year's draft, which will begin with the first round on Thursday from Las Vegas.

Per ESPN's David Newton, Fitterer also said there are two quarterbacks the team would feel comfortable selecting with the No. 6 overall pick, which it owns after a disappointing 5-12 mark last year.

It's unclear who those quarterbacks are, but Newton noted that Liberty's Malik Willis and Pitt's Kenny Pickett have generally vaulted into the top two of big boards.

Notably, the latest NFL Mock Draft Database big board has Willis first (13th overall among prospects) and Pickett second (20th). Willis and Pickett are also one-two on The Athletic's consensus big board.

The end of the prosperous Cam Newton era, which featured an NFC title and four playoff appearances, has not been an easy transition for the team.

Newton, Kyle Allen, Will Grier, Teddy Bridgewater, P.J. Walker and Sam Darnold have all started multiple games for the Panthers since 2019. The Panthers have won just five games each of the past three years.

The Panthers traded for Darnold during the 2021 offseason hoping he was the answer, but the ex-New York Jets signal-caller struggled (nine touchdowns, 13 interceptions) and finished 31st in the NFL in quarterback rating.

Playing without star running back Christian McCaffrey for 10 games because of injuries hurt Darnold's chances at success, and the same went for a midseason offensive coordinator change after the Panthers parted ways with Joe Brady.

However, it appears the Panthers are moving in another direction at this point as Fitterer and head coach Matt Rhule try to figure this out in Year 3 of their tenure after a 10-23 start.