Were the Panthers Serious About Drafting QB Justin Herbert?

Schuyler Callihan

Leading into the 2020 NFL Draft, there was some speculation that the Carolina Panthers would take a quarterback with their first round pick. Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert was the guy many projected to go to Carolina prior to the NFL Combine and prior to the signing of Teddy Bridgewater.

Once the Panthers agreed to terms on a three-year deal with Bridgewater, it became fairly clear that the Panthers were confident in his abilities and wanted to turn the focus to the defensive side of the ball. Come draft night, Herbert went off the board just one pick ahead of the Panthers at No. 6 to the Chargers and defensive tackle Derrick Brown ultimately ended up being the Panthers' selection. 

Had Herbert still been available when the Panthers were on the clock, would they have selected him? Well, it seems like there was a good chance.

Earlier this week, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow talked extensively about Herbert ahead of this week's matchup vs the Chargers, but also talked about the possibility of drafting him this past spring.

"I had a chance during the draft process to sit down with Justin a couple of times and can't say enough good things about him," Rhule said. "He is a really, really smart guy just from the draft process, has a great arm, can run 4.5, he's a great athlete, big powerful guy. You watch him in his first start and he goes and plays at a really high level, so he's a special young talent and is a person I have a lot of respect for." Phil Snow also added to that by saying the coaching staff scouted him thoroughly and was someone they were seriously considering. "We spent A LOT of time studying him, with thoughts of maybe drafting him. We put a lot of time into him last year, so we studied him a lot."

Although Teddy Bridgewater seems to be the coaching staff's guy, Rhule stated that he is always on the look for ways to improve the team, and that's at any position. But when it comes to quarterback, he said that it'll be a position they scout heavily every year prior to the draft.

"We evaluate all of the draft-able quarterbacks and would have probably gone to three or four Pro Day's if COVID hadn't have happened and I think we'll do that every year," Rhule stated. "I don't think it matters who is in the building here, it's part of our responsibility to go and look and see who those guys are and have extensive write ups on them and have as much information as possible on them. If they don't end up on your team then as the future unfolds and as guys change teams as guys hit free agency, then you have that book on them, so I think we'll always do that."

It may sound like coach speak, but it's true - every NFL team is scouting quarterbacks, every year. But again, were the Panthers heavily interested in Justin Herbert? I think so. Had he been on the board at No. 7, things would have got really interesting.

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