The Carolina Panthers are so ready to make the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft that they hired former linebacker Luke Kuechly, a choir and a crack video editing team to put together one of the best — and maybe only — draft pick hype videos in NFL history. The Panthers — who traded up to the No. 1 pick in a deal with the Chicago Bears that included wide receiver D.J. Moore — are set to select a quarterback. Alabama's Bryce Young, Ohio State's C.J. Stroud, Kentucky's Will Levis and Florida's Anthony Richardson are all potential North Carolina selections. But if we take a closer look at this video, it's possible that head coach Frank Reich may have slipped in some Easter eggs that could prove some mock drafts very wrong.
Carolina Goes Big and Bold Ahead of the Draft
The stage is now set.#NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/MeAX2GEwki
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) April 25, 2023
It's been a big week for quarterbacks. The New York Jets secured the services of Green Bay Packers legend Aaron Rodgers. And we haven't even gotten to the NFL Draft, where multiple QBs from the 2023 draft class will be selected in the first round. But the top pick is still unclear — or so we thought.
The video, which is both narrated by and starring Kuechly, opens with a single word: "Hope."
"As the stage is now set, and the pundits predict, it is we who now hold the No. 1 pick."
A shot of Commissioner Roger Goodell comes on the screen. The scene feels familiar, and it becomes clear why a few seconds later. Goodell reads his cue card as the Carolina Panthers select Cam Newton, Auburn's superstar quarterback.
Panthers fans remember the Newton draft well, as it set in motion a systemic change within the organization that brought them back into the NFC picture, and even brought them to a Super Bowl. It only took Newton five seasons to get past the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks before leading the Panthers to Super Bowl 50, where they fell to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
The video then flashes pictures and footage of Kuechly being drafted and Julius Peppers in his Panthers press conference. This is where things get interesting.
With The First Pick of the 2023 NFL Draft
As the video continues, with less than 15 seconds remaining, Kuechly says, "this selection is a reminder of how we've won, and a beacon of hope for the days to come." And then it's over.
So what does this all mean? It means the Carolina Panthers are going to select Anthony Richardson with the first overall pick.
What do Kuechly, Peppers and Richardson all have in common? They all came from well-known schools that didn't move the needle but had star players who put everything on the line. That's Richardson and the middling Florida Gator teams he played on.
Even further, the key to the Carolina Panthers' successes was the play of Newton, who was a threat through the air and on the ground. The 6-foot-4 Auburn star was a franchise player who believed in his abilities when no one else did.
Another 6-foot-4 SEC quarterback who proved ESPN pundits wrong with a massive Pro Day? Anthony Richardson.
Sure, we're probably looking too deep into this very insane video the Carolina Panthers dropped, but it's not as if we're saying they'll take a linebacker or an offensive line piece. The Panthers' trade tells the world they want to restart and return to the glory days of Carolina football. After signing former Eagles rusher Miles Sanders, it's clear that GM Scott Fitterer isn't playing around.
If anything, this is a coded message to the other teams hunting a QB in the first round. It says, "We're taking Richardson. Plan accordingly."
Either that, or it's just a fun hype video. But that's boring, so we're going with our theory.