NFL teams don’t defend, not in the way you think it happens anyway.
Players are not interested in improving the draft pick position. This is just another new guy looking to take his job. Coaches don’t have the job security to lose games. Tanks can’t be pronounced from top to bottom or else the teams will be in trouble. (Well kind of.)
But there is no doubt that the best path for the Carolina Panthers and many other teams the rest of this season is to lose. The Panthers play the Atlanta Falcons Thursday night in a game aired by Amazon Prime Video and will do their best to win, although the direction of the franchise could look a lot brighter if they don’t.
[Watch Thursday Night Football on Prime Video: Sign up for a 30-day free trial]
The Panthers have a problem that a lot of other teams suddenly have: they need a midfielder. The best way to fix this problem is through the draft.
Panthers in line to choose the best
In the most recent NFL draft simulation by Yahoo Sports’ Charles MacDonald, quarterback CJ Stroud of Ohio State, Bryce Young of Alabama and Will Levis of Kentucky were in the top six. Levis is a sign behind the other two. But we saw quarterbacks rise in the pre-draft process after the season ended. It’s possible, given how many teams need quarterback players, these QBs could end up going 1-2-3. Others can make it to the first round, but there is clearly a higher category.
The more advanced you are in the draft, the better prospect you get. The NFL draft contains a lot of errors, but the team rankings are also more accurate than anyone wants to admit.
Now the Panthers have a second overall draft pick. They’re 2-7, in part because their midfield play was poor. Baker Mayfield didn’t play well early in the season, then got hurt, and PJ Walker had some amazingly bad matches. The Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Las Vegas Raiders also had only two wins, but had one less loss due to a farewell. There are nine teams with three wins (the Indianapolis Colts tied with three).
Each win of the Panthers can cost them a few points in the draft rankings. Instead of leading Stroud, Young, or Levis to a new age, they could be stuck trying to find a next-level gem, or trading an exorbitant amount of picks to move higher.
Not that Stroud, Young, or Levis are sure things, but you’d rather risk them more than any other viable QB option for 2023 and beyond. The Panthers have tried to deal with veterans like Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold and Mayfield and nothing has worked. They are stuck until they have a viable QB.
The truth is that most of the above applies to hawks as well.
Falcons and leopards fight in QB
Atlanta’s quarterback is Marcus Mariota, and they want him to throw as erratically as possible. The Hawks have 201 attempted passes. Only the Tennessee Titans and Chicago Bears have fewer attempts. Even in their 35-17 Week 7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, where the Falcons trailed by double digits for nearly 50 minutes into the game, they attempted only 13 passes. Novice Desmond Reader may be the QB of the future but that’s not a sure thing. You can fairly put them on the list of teams that will be in the first round of the quarterback next April.
The Falcons are currently allotted to draft a 15th overall and it would be hard to get their quarterback from that spot. Atlanta is also tied for first place in the NFC South Rotten, so they aren’t worried about their place in the draft.
It must be leopards. They’ve already sacked head coach Matt Roll and assuming interim coach Steve Wilkes doesn’t get the full-time job, one of the Panthers’ big selling points for the top candidates in this off-season will be a restart with a high potential quarterback. It’s hard to sell if the Panthers don’t line up in the top five or the top ten.
Carolina will try to win Thursday night. Players still take pride and want to do their best for their career. But the truth is, for the future of the Panthers, the loss would not be the worst outcome, even if no one said it.