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2024 Second-Year Scouting Report: Bryce Young

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The new rookie class around the NFL gets all the attention over the summer. They’re the flashy new pieces for fantasy football, and of course they can be anything.

But last year’s rookies aren’t fully formed yet. The players entering their second season aren’t the fancy new thing anymore. That can open up some value in fantasy drafts for players still due to break out, and it can lead to fantasy mistakes for players who had a good first season that turn out to be a mirage. Everyone knows Year 1 to Year 2 is one of the biggest jumps an NFL player can make, but this still happens.

To try to head this off, over the course of the summer we’re going to revisit last year’s rookie class in our Second-Year Scouting Report series, looking at the incoming sophomore NFL players to see what went right in their rookie season, what went wrong and what we can expect from them going forward.

Bryce Young, QB, Carolina Panthers

Peyton Manning threw 26 touchdowns and 28 interceptions as a rookie back in 1998. Trevor Lawrence tossed just 12 touchdowns to 17 interceptions during his rookie campaign in 2021. So yes, was it disappointing to watch Bryce Young’s first taste of NFL action this past season? For sure.

But it is far from over.

Young completed less than 60% of his passes as a rookie, while throwing just 11 touchdown passes to 10 interceptions. But like Lawrence in Jacksonville, Young was in a brutal situation this past season. While it is a little alarming to see the top overall selection struggle so much in his rookie year, we have seen quarterbacks bounce back in a huge way after a slow start.

What Went Right

Not much, honestly.

Young definitely made some highlight plays last year, but there was far more good than bad. He was mostly healthy, at least, missing just one game with an ankle sprain. But after that, he didn’t appear on the final injury report for the rest of the season. 

What Went Wrong

I don’t know. How much time do you have?

I already mentioned the completion rate, touchdowns (or lack thereof) and interceptions. But let’s dive deeper into Young’s rookie season from hell. He posted an ugly 39.3% success rate, which was the second-worst rate among all quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts last season. And dating back to the Super Bowl era, Young’s 10.4 fantasy points per game ranked just 90th among all rookie quarterbacks during that span. Young also averaged just 0.28 fantasy points per dropback, which comfortably was dead last in the league. Young certainly didn’t play well, but his struggles also weren’t all his fault. 

Frank Reich and this Carolina offense truly failed him. For starters, this team was so unorganized both inside and breaking the huddle. But more importantly, the combination of play concepts and talent on offense left Young with very few layup throws. According to FTN Data, Young averaged just 1.63 yards of separation per pass attempt to wide receivers and tight ends last year, the fourth-lowest mark in football. Meanwhile, his 2.7 yards after the catch per pass attempt ranked outside the top-five quarterbacks. Young also had 140 pass attempts with a skill position player in motion, which accounted for just 26.5% of his passes. And Carolina had 34 total wide receiver receptions where there was at least three yards of separation. The Panthers had very little creativity or movement in their offense, ranking 28th in the league in use of motion (35%). A slow, stagnant offense that relied on 33-year-old Adam Thielen to get open surprisingly wasn’t the recipe for success for Young.

Player Team AVG Separation/ATT
Bailey Zappe New England Patriots 1.30
Desmond Ridder Atlanta Falcons 1.30
Zach Wilson New York Jets 1.59
Bryce Young Carolina Panthers 1.63
Jalen Hurts Philadelphia Eagles 1.63

I am shocked.

The Panthers offensive line didn’t do Young many favors either. He was sacked a franchise-record 60 times last year, while his 12% adjusted sack rate was the fifth-highest in football. Young was also under pressure on right around 40% of his dropbacks, which was a top-10 rate in the league. 

Prognosis Entering 2024

It may come back to haunt me, but I am all in on the sophomore bounce-back campaign from Young. Everything Carolina did this offseason tells us that their sole plan is to set up their franchise signal-caller for success. 

And that should be their primary focus. 

Knowing their wideouts couldn’t separate last year, the Panthers traded for Diontae Johnson this offseason. Back in 2022, Johnson was one of the best wideouts in the league at getting open, and over the last two years, he has been at the top of ESPN’s open score metric. And according to FTN Data, Johnson was deemed open on 27 of his 51 receptions last year (53%). The addition of Johnson will certainly help Carolina’s separation issues from last year. 

But the Panthers didn’t stop there.

They traded into the first round to select Xavier Legette, who has an awesome combination of size and speed. He can provide this offense with way more after-the-catch upside, making Young’s job a bit easier. And the Panthers traded up again later on, selecting Jonathon Brooks, the top running back in this draft class. Brooks is incredibly fluid catching the ball out of the backfield and will eventually be a massive upgrade over both Miles Sanders and Chuba Hubbard. But this offseason plan to help Young started in free agency when the Panthers added to the offensive line, signing guards Damien Lewis and Robert Hunt. All of these moves are great and important to Young’s development. 

However, the most crucial addition this team made was someone who won’t play a single snap for the Panthers. Carolina hired Dave Canales as their new head coach, who will also call plays. Canales has now put together consecutive seasons where he’s helped quarterbacks post career-best, renaissance seasons; Geno Smith in 2022 and Baker Mayfield in 2023. In 2022, Canales was Seattle’s quarterback coach, helping Smith finish as the QB5 in fantasy. And just this past season, Mayfield was rejuvenated, passing for 4,045 yards, 28 touchdowns and 10 touchdowns en route to a QB11 finish. I fully trust Canales to come in and give Young the best chance of succeeding in his second season.

Dynasty Outlook

For most of the offseason, perhaps my favorite player to trade for was Young. It was the ideal buy-low opportunity on a player who, although struggled, is still one year removed from being the top overall selection in the draft. Obviously, he isn’t in the same tier as CJ Stroud or Anthony Richardson, who were drafted after him. But I don’t believe that suddenly Young is a bust and is going to be out of the league in four years. Does he have the upside to break into the top-10 range? I’m not so sure. But I do believe this is the lowest his value will ever be.

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