KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WGHP) — The Carolina Panthers have selected Alabama’s Bryce Young with the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to be their franchise quarterback.

Young was transcendent during his two seasons as Alabama’s starting quarterback. He won the Heisman Trophy and a number of other awards in his first season as a starter in 2021 as he led the Crimson Tide to the National Championship Game. For the season, Young threw for 47 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions while completing 67% of his passes and throwing for 4,872 yards.

For his career, Young threw for 79 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions in 27 starts while completing 66% of his passes and throwing for 8,200 yards.

Young played in a pro-style offense during his time at Alabama, his offensive coordinator was Bill O’Brien who coached in the NFL as head coach of the Houston Texans and was Tom Brady’s offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots. O’Brien recently returned to that role with the Patriots in January.

Young showed elite traits at Alabama with his ability to move around and manipulate the pocket, make quick reads and extend plays to create throwing lanes.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban raves about Young’s calm demeanor on the field and leadership abilities.

“One of the things we admire about Bryce is that he is very bright, he does a great job of preparing. He’s always on top of exactly what we want to do, how we want to execute and the thing we try to emphasize with him, because he has a calm demeanor is your presence is important to the rest of the players. So he’s made huge strides in affecting other people on offense in a positive way.

“Quarterback’s a hard position to play if the people around you don’t play well so I think that’s something that has actually helped him continue to grow and develop as a player at his position and he’s obviously played it very well last year.”

Nick Saban to On3.com

Saban has won 7 National Championships and is widely considered to be the greatest coach in college football history.

When it comes to production on the field, Young is considered by most experts to be the obvious choice for the Panthers with the top selection.

The downside for Young is his stature, he was measured at 5-feet-10-inches during the NFL Combine and weighed in at 204 pounds. That weight does come with a caveat as many scouts believe that Young packed on that weight hastily and likely will not play at that weight. He was listed as weighing 194 pounds at Alabama.

With his slight frame, durability is often cited as the main concern with taking Young with the first pick. The only notable injury Young suffered during his time at Alabama was a sprained AC joint in his shoulder during the 2022 season which caused him to miss one game.

Young’s head coach isn’t worried about the size concerns:

“We’ve all seen the 6-foot-4, 225-pound guy that can throw it like a bazooka, but he can’t make the choices and decisions; he can’t distribute the ball, he can’t throw it accurately. So who’s the better bet? I’m going on history, production, performance, and Bryce Young’s done it about as well as anybody.”

Nick Saban on Know Mercy with Stephen A. Smith

Young’s size rarely appears to be a limiting factor on the field, as he was excellent at throwing the ball in the middle of the field, 10-19 yards down the field, an area that many smaller quarterbacks struggle to target.

According to Pro Football Focus, Young completed 66% of passes for 1,192 yards and 13 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions in the middle of the field. His 130 quarterback rating in the middle of the field would be the highest quarterback rating among NFL quarterbacks.

For what it’s worth, Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer dismissed concerns about Young’s size in a press conference on Tuesday.

“When Russell Wilson came out, he had three balls batted down his senior year; Bryce had two. It doesn’t seem to be an issue. When you grow up a shorter quarterback, you learn how to evolve your game and adapt and see the field, and he’s done that.

“Nutritionally we can do some things to educate him, get him in the weight room. When you look at his lower body, it has gotten bigger. He’s put on a lot of mass down there. A lot of times quarterbacks don’t want to lift on the upper body because you get a little bound up [up top]. But he’s going to naturally put on size as he ages as well.”

Scott Fitterer to AP’s Steve Reed on Tuesday

Panthers assistant general manager Dan Morgan shared similar sentiments to Fitterer and Saban on what he values in the quarterback evaluation process.

“You have to have those pocket instincts, the ability to slide, find passing lanes. So you have to look at other things like that and then obviously how smart and how well a quarterback sees the field is also important.”

Dan Morgan

One of the key factors that led the Panthers to choose Young over other candidates such as CJ Stroud, Anthony Richardson and Will Levis was Young’s performance in the S2 cognition test.

The test takes around 45 minutes on a gaming laptop and response pad. Young reportedly scored a nearly perfect 98 out of 99 possible points on the S2, according to The Athletic’s Joe Person. That mark was the highest in the class.

The S2 features nine separately graded tests which are then put into a formula to calculate an overall score. Some of the tasks that are predictive of a quarterback’s success include tracking multiple objects, decision complexity and improvisation.

“It’s like the decathlon. You don’t have to win a single event, but you can actually win the decathlon. It looks at the pattern of scores based on how others did on those nine tasks.”

Brandon Ally, S2 co-founder

A number of elite current and former NFL quarterbacks have performed well on the S2 including Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow (97th percentile) as well as Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen and Kansas Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes who both scored in the mid-90s.

Drew Brees, a future Hall of Fame QB that is second all-time in career passing yards despite standing at only 6 feet tall scored in the mid-90s as well. In fact, NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein compared Young to Brees in his scouting profile.

Ally says that the S2 test is predictive when it comes to playing quarterback at a high level.

“Some positions require more visual processing or cognitive processing than others. As an example, the quarterback position is heavily dependent on reading what the defense is doing and rapidly making decisions based on those reads.”

Brandon Ally, S2 co-founder

In 2022, S2 conducted a study into the scores of 117 quarterbacks who had taken the cognitive test. There were 27 starting NFL QBs who took the test and were split into two groups of 13 Top Tier Starters and 14 Lower Tier Starters.

The overall score for Top Tier Starters was in the 91st percentile while Lower Tier Starters was in the 51st percentile. Top Tier Starters’ scores on the S2 ranged from 74-99 while Lower Tier Starters’ scores ranged from 8-90.

As the data shows, Top Tier Starters, who are considered to be the elite class of quarterbacks, all performed very well on the S2 while Lower Tier Starters’ performances were much more volatile.

The results of the study also could have helped ease concerns the Panthers may have had about Young’s height as S2 says they found very little connection between quarterback height and career passer rating (CPR).

“Interestingly, there was very little relationship with QB height. QBs 6’2″ and shorter actually have a CPR 3 points higher than QBs 6’3” and taller. Our own independent statistical analysis examining the relationship between height and CPR confirmed Batra’s original findings. A Pearson’s correlation revealed an inverse relationship between height and CPR (r-value of -.185, p = .178), suggesting shorter QBs have slightly higher CPRs.”

Excerpt from S2’s study

The Panthers are one of 15 NFL teams that currently use the S2 test, according to Person. GM Scott Fitterer confirmed as much in an interview during the draft process.

“Obviously, we use it so we believe in it. But it’s a tool. There’s a lot of different tools that we look at, analytics (and) everything else. It all comes back to the tape. It’s the most important thing that we do when we watch and we evaluate. S2 is just another tool that we use. It is something that we believe in, though.”

Scott Fitterer

The S2 test is perhaps one of the factors that led to the Panthers favoring Young over CJ Stroud who reportedly scored in the 18th percentile on the test, according to Bob McGinn, a former Green Bay Packers beat writer for the Green Bay Press-Gazette and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Young’s selection has the support of numerous Carolina Panthers icons.

Cam Newton, The Panthers’ most recent No. 1 pick and the greatest quarterback in franchise history revealed on his YouTube channel that he thinks Young is the choice for the Panthers.

”This is how I judge quarterbacks as a whole: Everybody can throw. Everybody has talent. Everybody has upside, but the thing that everybody doesn’t have, and it’s simple, is leadership. And can you get a {expletive} to follow you.

“If I’m the GM, I’m the head coach, if I’m (Panthers owner) David Tepper, I’m selecting Bryce Young.

“I was watching half those games from Bryce Young, and I was amazed because, not only did he have good talent, he was the best talent on a talented team.”

Cam Newton on Bryce Young

Former Panthers Pro Bowl linebacker Thomas Davis also is of the opinion that Young is the best choice for Carolina.

“I think that Bryce Young is a better quarterback and the reason why I say that — as you guys can see — Ten58 is based on my time at (the University of) Georgia. So, I’m partial to SEC guys. I got to watch Bryce Young play a lot, and he’s a guy that played against NFL competition almost every week. When you think about the number of guys that are drafted out of the SEC, and that go on to have really good, successful careers — I think Bryce Young, he’s going to be more suited, ready and molded to be prepared to play on Day 1.”

Thomas Davis on Bryce Young

Future Hall Of Fame Panthers wide receiver and NFL Network Analyst Steve Smith says that Young deserves to be the first quarterback selected.

“There are about three routes that I like to judge a quarterback on. And the way you threw the corner route, it was about a step and a half before the receiver gave the indicator that you threw the corner route and that wide receiver was able to catch it, so that’s a plus. Also too, there was some routes going across the middle. When you look at the stats, you were the most accurate, highest completion rate over the middle. So you understand the throwing lanes. But then more than anything, you’re quiet feet. Quick feet, the way you hold the ball, your quick release. Everything that I’ve seen out of there, for me, I’ve seen bigger, more athletic quarterbacks not be able to anticipate the throw. I’ll be 44 years old. I could have gone out there and ran those routes, just the way you were guiding the ball. It was remarkable. It just sure looked good watching it. Man, what a wonderful, wonderful display of why you deserve to be the first overall quarterback to be picked in this year’s draft.”

Steve Smith comments on Bryce Young’s Pro Day performance

Now, the Panthers will look to Young to take the team to the heights it once reached during the Cam Newton era and possibly win the Super Bowl that has evaded the franchise since its inception in 1995.