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Why the Carolina Panthers shouldn’t have taken a backup quarterback with pick No. 100

Having a stronger backup plan for Cam Newton is good, but the Panthers could’ve done better at the end of the third round

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Let me just say this up front, I hope Will Grier is awesome. He’s a Panther now so he’s part of my football family and I’m rooting for him. I hope he has a long and successful NFL career.

That said, I believe the Panthers made a potentially costly mistake by investing the No. 100 pick in a backup quarterback. Again, this isn’t a shot at Will Grier. I would’ve made the same comment whether Carolina selected Grier or any other quarterback still left on the board. This is about the position, not the person. Here’s why:

Roster gaps

While Marty Hurney deserves a lot of credit for making smart moves in free agency and pulling off a seemingly strong draft, the Panthers roster still has holes at several positions. A capable rookie at a number of positions could have seen meaningful snaps in 2019 and beyond. The only way Grier will play is if Cam Newton is too injured to take the field.

Let’s take a look at a sample of who the Panthers could have selected at No. 100 with draft grades and information from CBS Sports, Walter Football (WF), and

Players available at No. 100

Name Pos Draft No. CBS WF NFL Grade Projection
Name Pos Draft No. CBS WF NFL Grade Projection
Will Grier QB 100 C C- 5.4 NFL backup
Yodny Cajuste OT 101 B B 5.6 Chance to become starter
Hakeem Butler WR 103 A A 5.7 Chance to become starter
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson S 105 A- A+ 5.9 Chance to become starter
Anthony Nelson DL 107 A A 5.7 Chance to become starter
Julian Love CB 108 A A- 5.8 Chance to become starter

While having a backup plan for Cam Newton is a good thing, no doubt, finding a potential starter at a position of need would have been more valuable.

Maximizing the value of rookie contracts

Cap hits for players drafted around No. 100 are like manna sent from the football heavens. In 2018 the Panthers drafted tight end Ian Thomas at No. 101 and signed him to a four-year, $3.2 million contract. Thomas exceeded expectations as a rookie and looks like a promising player. His cap hit in 2021, his fourth NFL season, will be a paltry $937,000.

It’s not uncommon for players drafted around pick No. 100 to be situational contributors in their first couple of seasons then develop into quality depth or even starters. The Panthers saw this with tackle Daryl Williams who was drafted at No. 102 in 2015. After starting two games as a rookie he went on to start 10 games in 2016, then he became a second team All-Pro impact player in 2017 before getting derailed by injury.

Teams that draft well around No. 100 get four years worth of weekly contributions at cap hits below $1 million. That’s as good of value as the NFL has to offer. The Panthers have probably wasted this week-in, week-out salary cap value by drafting a backup quarterback.

Historical failure of quarterbacks drafted near No. 100

Now, Cam Newton may not be healthy and it is possible Will Grier gets some starts next year. On top of that, Cam’s contract will also be up after the 2020 season so drafting Grier can help hedge against losing Cam in free agency, but then again it’s rare for players drafted near No. 100 to develop into franchise quarterbacks. If Grier was viewed as a franchise quarterback by even a handful of teams, there’s no way he would’ve fallen to the end of the third round.

Based on data from Football Reference, a total of 20 quarterbacks were drafted between No. 85 and No. 115 (so No. 100 plus or minus 15) between 2005 and 2016. We’ll exclude players drafted in 2017 and 2018 due to their limited opportunities thus far. Click here for the full list.

The top end of these 20 quarterbacks are Kyle Orton, Kirk Cousins, Nick Foles, Trent Edwards, and Colt McCoy. That’s the best case scenario based on recent history.

On the other hand, 11 of these 20 players have started seven games or less in their careers which includes six players who are out of the NFL. The best approximation of the “average” quarterback drafted somewhere near No. 100 is a hybrid of Brodie Croyle, Matt Barkley, and Landry Jones. I’d trade a shot at a starting player at a position of need over those mediocre backup quarterbacks in a heartbeat.

Again, I want Will Grier to succeed. I hope he defies the odds and becomes a solid NFL quarterback. The Panthers needed a better succession plan for Cam Newton than they had before the draft, but using a late third round pick as in insurance policy is an awfully high premium to pay.


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