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Panthers reach consensus on who’ll be No. 1 pick in draft

CHARLOTTE. N.C. (AP) — Carolina Panthers coach Frank Reich says he and general manager Scott Fitterer have agreed on which quarterback the team will select with the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.

But Reich says the team won’t announce who that is until Thursday night, when the draft begins.

The Panthers are choosing between Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson in an effort to upgrade a quarterback position that has been in transition for the last five seasons.

Fitterer said last week he had waited to ask Reich who he preferred at No. 1 so that nothing would cloud either decision-maker’s judgement. But on Monday Fitterer finally walked into Reich’s office and popped the question on who he prefers — and both agreed on the same QB.

“It was kind of like a proposal — and I said yes,” Reich joked Tuesday. “But there is consensus and we are excited.”

Young remains the overwhelming favorite to be the first Panthers QB selected No. 1 overall since Cam Newton in 2011, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, although Levis has moved ahead of Stroud.

This is a hugely important pick for Carolina, which has not been to the playoffs since 2017 largely because of inconsistency at the QB position.

Reich praised Fitterer and the scouts for keeping an open mind through the entire process.

“We all went into the thing with ideas and inclinations, but there are ebbs and flows during the process,” Reich said. “Is there any change of mind? I wouldn’t say there is any drastic change of mind, but there are ebbs and flows on how much you like a guy. And that is why you have to resist the temptation to make your mind up too early.

“The coaches and the scouting staff did a good job of not falling into that trap and just take it for what it is, take it day by day, watch tape and go through the process.”

Reich said the team’s coaching staff’s convictions on who to take “built gradually” over time.

With the top pick decided, Reich said the team is now focusing its attention on its other five picks in the first five rounds of the draft, including the 39th overall selection.

“We are wrapping our minds around that 39th pick and the 93rd pick about all of the scenarios – (trade) up, (trade) down or stay there,” Reich said. “What if (this guy) is there; what if he’s not. Hey, tell us how this guy fits into the scheme. They have been dynamic discussions and I think we are prepared for those scenarios.” ___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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