How can I say this politely? The Carolina Panthers are likely going to be very bad in 2023. But their quarterback room may just be the most interesting to watch over the first month of the season.
After coming close but ultimately missing their first playoff berth since a Wildcard loss in 2017, the Panthers decided to go all in on the opportunity to draft the consensus #1 quarterback Bryce Young. To acquire his services, the Panthers had to trade away some key pieces and draft capital (DJ Moore, plus four draft picks), so Carolina is counting on Young to be the savior for a franchise without an All-Pro wide receiver and many fewer draft picks.
But there’s a potential red-headed problem lurking. The Panthers also signed veteran Andy Dalton to a two-year deal one month before the draft to, at a minimum, challenge for the job and mentor Young and, at most, fill the starting quarterback role until Young is NFL-ready.
We all love the new hotness in our fantasy football drafts, but is Bryce Young or Andy Dalton the better option in 2QB formats? How do Young’s disadvantages (height, rookie) compare to Dalton’s advantages (162 career starts, luxurious red locks) as 2023 approaches?
Bryce Young Was #1, But Will He Start Right Away?
Let’s get the positive stuff out of the way first. Bryce Young is very, VERY good. He threw for 80 touchdowns against 12 interceptions at Alabama, plus averaged about 4,100 yards passing in his final two seasons. He read defenses well, makes quick adjustments, and can pull the ball in and run when needed.
Young was a monster; there’s no way around it. But, one of the potential problems at the NFL level is that he was much more Gremlin than Godzilla when it comes to his size. How that translates to the NFL is yet to be seen.
Young’s Small Stature is Almost Unprecedented
When it comes to vertically-challenged quarterbacks in NFL history, they often come up “short” in terms of opportunity and production. Bryce Young officially measured 5’10” at the NFL Combine, which means at some point this season, he will become just the fourth QB at 5’10” or under to start an NFL game.
Two of those quarterbacks were Davey O’Brien (5’7″) and Eddie LeBaron (5’7″), both of whom played in the 1940s and 1950s before we were doing things like wearing faceguards and, you know, actually throwing the ball. The other two players at 5’10” are Doug Flutie and Kyler Murray. Flutie, as we know, played first in the CFL before having decent success at the NFL level (but by no means elite level). Kyler Murray, before he blew out his knee last year, signed a five-year, $230 million contract after winning Offensive Rookie of the Year and making two Pro Bowls. That’s the aspirational goal right now for Young.
The sample size is admittedly small, and so is Bryce Young. That’s, unfortunately, strike number one.
Young is Fighting History to Start as a Rookie
Strike number two is the simple fact Bryce Young is a rookie, even if he was drafted number one overall. According to research done by 4for4.com one year ago, only 20 of 47 rookies (43%) drafted in the first round since 2000 started for their teams in Week 1. If my math is correct, if we look at just quarterbacks taken number one overall, that number is only nine of 16 players starting Week 1 (56%). Bryce Young is a potential star, but is he better than Justin Fields, Justin Herbert, Michael Vick, Daniel Jones, or Eli Manning? None of those players started game one.
The average number of games started for that sample is 10.7, so there is still plenty of runway for Young to make a healthy amount of starts. He is already turning heads at OTAs and early workouts, but we have no concept of what Carolina’s Week 1 plans are now.
Andy Dalton Could Begin the Year Leading an Eclectic WR Corps
After trading away D.J. Moore and acquiring Adam Thielen, the remaining wide receiver room looks like a bunch of has-beens and not-quite-yets. Including Thielen, the Panthers will start the year with DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault, Terrace Marshall Jr., and hotshot rookie Jonathan Mingo. With an almost entirely new legion of receivers suiting up in the back and teal, is it out of the question that they will look to the veteran Dalton to stabilize their growth?
Dalton has started at least nine games in 11 of his 12 seasons, and he was surprisingly effective last year with a 67% completion rate and a 2:1 TD/INT ratio. That completion percentage was the highest of his career, and his interception rate tied for the third-lowest of his career.
Dalton, it would appear, still has something left in the tank and his steady presence and veteran know-how could help mentor and guide Young at the same time. If I’m the Panthers and am unlikely to compete in the division this year, what’s forcing my hand to put Bryce Young out there until he is absolutely ready?
Then again, with Tom Brady gone, this division might be up for grabs. Is Bryce Young already better than divisional foes Baker Mayfield, Desmond Ridder, and Derek Carr? It’s at least possible. But it also means Dalton would not have to do too much to keep this team at least in the divisional mix all year.
Is Bryce Young or Andy Dalton the Better Pick in 2 QB Leagues?
That’s a loaded question as we currently stand in early June. Andy Dalton is currently being drafted as QB60 in NFBC NFL drafts, around pick 292. So he is essentially free in any draft and is likely on waivers in almost every league, even 2QB leagues. Bryce Young is the tougher call.
Young is currently being drafted as QB22 (pick 140) right now in NFBC leagues, and his ADP in 2QB leagues is QB20, around the beginning of the seventh round, according to DraftSharks. Quarterbacks being taken after Bryce Young in that format include Matthew Stafford, C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson, and Kenny Pickett.
If you’re forcing me to choose between that group of five quarterbacks in 2QB formats or in standard redraft leagues, I would take Stafford, Richardson, and Pickett (slightly) ahead of Young right now. I have concerns about his offensive skill weapons to start the year. And Carolina’s defense should be very good, and they are going to want to control the ball on the ground (Carolina was fifth in the NFL last year with a 50% rush rate).
At least with Stafford, Richardson, and Pickett, there is more of a guarantee that those guys will start all 17 games this season. But if we get any word in July or August that the job is Young’s, I can easily overlook his “short”-comings and make a case for him to be drafted higher.