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2021 NFL Draft Rumors: QBs Mac Jones, Trey Lance Don't Enthrall Panthers

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorApril 24, 2021

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule during an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Brian Westerholt)
Brian Westerholt/Associated Press

The Carolina Panthers "are not enthralled" with either Alabama quarterback Mac Jones or North Dakota State signal-caller Trey Lance, Joseph Person of The Athletic wrote based on "conversations with multiple sources."

Person made the comments in an article about the team's draft options at No. 8 overall, with a focus on what the team would do considering its recent trade for quarterback Sam Darnold.

The Panthers sent three draft picks (including a second-rounder) to the New York Jets for the 23-year-old, who was the No. 3 overall selection in the 2018 NFL draft. He figures to be the team's Week 1 starter.

Carolina general manager Scott Fitterer has a decision to make on Darnold, however, with his fifth-year option for the 2022 season looming at an $18.858 million price tag. The deadline for that decision is May 3.

A source told Person that the Panthers are expecting to pick up the option.

There isn't much need for Carolina to rush that decision before the three-day draft begins playing out Thursday, though. A potential X-factor is whether Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields falls to No. 8, which Person discussed:

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"That leaves Fields, who seems to intrigue the Panthers. Now, are they intrigued enough to take him at No. 8, or do they merely want other teams to think they could take Fields, and make their pick more valuable? I mean, it wouldn't be draft season without at least a little subterfuge."

Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and BYU's Zach Wilson are expected to go first and second overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Jets, respectively. Fields, Lance and Jones round out the top-five quarterback list for this year's draft.

Regardless of what the Panthers decide to do, they have numerous options, as Panthers head coach Matt Rhule noted and Person relayed.

"They can stay where they are and consider a quarterback. They could try to solve their nearly decade-long problem at left tackle with the eighth pick, although I can't see Oregon's Penei Sewell making it that far.

"Or they could trade back, recoup some of the draft capital they spent on Darnold and still be in position to take a tackle or one of the top cornerbacks, whom I hear the Panthers are high on. Given this team's other needs and Fitterer's background, that seems to be the preferred scenario."

There's been plenty of smoke about the Panthers trading down, and Fitterer went on the record saying he's discussed potential moves with teams.

"We've talked to several, actually, already. I'd say at least five, all in different parts of the draft," Fitterer said at his predraft press conference.

"There will be a lot more calls this week. We're very open to moving back or open to picking, it just depends on how the board falls, those first seven picks in front of us."

Ultimately, Carolina should be one of the most interesting teams to watch come draft night. The festivities begin at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday.

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