Carolina Panthers 'unanimous' with Bryce Young as No. 1 draft pick

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper didn't hesitate when asked what it meant for the organization to get Alabama quarterback Bryce Young with the top pick of Thursday night's NFL draft.

"Super Bowls," Tepper said while addressing a raucous crowd at Bank of America Stadium. "Super Bowls."

It was a bold statement for Tepper, who hasn't put a winning product on the field in the five seasons since he paid $2.275 billion for the organization in 2018.

But he truly believes Young, whom the Panthers targeted from their first draft meeting in February despite his size (5-10 1/8, 204 pounds) that is well below the average height (6-2 ½) for NFL quarterbacks, can do it.

"When we went through the process with these quarterbacks, we asked ourselves, 'Which one of these guys will be a guy that can take us?'" Tepper later explained at a news conference in which he never sat down. "Not to talk about all the different guys, but we thought this guy had the highest probability of winning Super Bowls.

"Listen, you want to win Super Bowls. And you know there's no sure thing here. But it's a probability. We thought this guy has the best probability of winning Super Bowls."

Tepper went so far as to say Carolina could save money on skill players at other positions because of all the things Young brings in terms of a passer and runner "and put that money into the defensive side of the ball."

Young, the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner, said he appreciated the confidence Tepper and the organization have in him.

"Whenever there's a pressure situation, I look at that as an opportunity," he said. "It's fun to be in those situations. That's what we all dream of.

"Whatever the expectations, I want to take things day by day. But I am super blessed for this organization to take a chance on me."

Carolina general manager Scott Fitterer first set his sights on Young two years ago when area scouts reported to him. When he met with new coach Frank Reich and the rest of the staff at their initial draft meeting in February, there was "overwhelming conviction" for Young.

That's why on March 10, Fitterer was willing to send four draft picks and star wide receiver DJ Moore to the Chicago Bears to move from the ninth pick to first in the draft.

While the initial perception was Carolina liked Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud better because of his prototypical size (6-3, 218) that fit what Reich has worked with in the past, Young always was the choice.

The evaluation process, which included looks at Kentucky quarterback Will Levis and Florida's Anthony Richardson, only strengthened the conviction.

"It was very clear," Reich said of the initial draft meeting. "Scott basically proposes a question at the end of that meeting like, 'Hey, if we trade up, where's our conviction?'

"And it was unanimous with every guy in that room that Bryce was the guy."

Reich did express some concern about Young's durability early in the process because of the quarterback's size. He'd never had a starter in his 17 years in the NFL shorter than 6-2.

But all concern quickly went away after studying film.

"And when you watch the tape, Bryce Young is the best player," Reich said.

Young joins Arizona Cardinals star Kyler Murray as the shortest quarterback ever taken at No. 1. He is just the fourth quarterback since 2006 to be drafted after measuring shorter than 6 feet tall at the NFL scouting combine, joining Murray, Johnny Manziel (5-11 3/4 and Russell Wilson (5-10 5/8).

But height never has been an issue for Young.

"Those that doubt me, they are entitled to their opinion," he said. "That is the beauty of sports. We all come together and have arguments on who you think is good or not. I choose to focus on what I can control, put my energy into that and whatever external factors it may be, positive or negative, that is stuff I can't control."

Fitterer never was uncomfortable with Young's size. He was with the Seattle Seahawks in 2012 when they drafted Wilson, who became a nine-time Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl champion.

What impressed the Panthers most was Young's ability to process information and his leadership, both priorities they were looking for in the new face of the organization.

Fitterer said at Alabama's pro day that Young's processing was "off the charts," something Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said repeatedly. Saban also compared Young to Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry in his ability to lead and make those around him better.

Carolina hopes Young boosts a team whose quarterbacks ranked near the bottom of the league in several categories last season, including completion percentage (31st), passing yards (29th), total QBR (31st) and passing touchdowns (28th).

Young said the Panthers impressed him during his pre-draft visits, which he described as "intricate."

"Everything was planned out," he said. "And the way that they viewed the quarterback position, how much I learned from my time being there, even from the visits that I had, it really meant a lot. So I can't be more excited, and I'm blessed to be a Panther."

Fitterer couldn't say enough about how detailed Young was, describing the epic answer the quarterback gave at a dinner with the Carolina contingent the night before his pro day.

Young admitted he was "long-winded," but the Panthers weren't looking for apologies. It's that attention to detail they believe will help them win Super Bowls.

"I come from a world of analysis ... trying to figure out what companies are worth," said Tepper, who made his billions as a hedge fund manager. "I took some of that into here. This is truly a process. ... We're not messing around."