LAS VEGAS, N.V. (WNCN) – Despite trading for starting quarterback Sam Darnold last April, the Carolina Panthers’ decision to draft a starting-caliber quarterback with a top-10 draft pick in the 2022 NFL Draft is a huge one.

Carolina currently holds the No. 6 overall pick, but then does not select again until round four (No. 137) barring any trades. While this year’s quarterback class isn’t as strong as most, waiting until the fourth round will be too late to upgrade its quarterback room.

And there’s one specific quarterback in this year’s draft that has specific ties to coaches on the Panthers’ staff.

Kenny Pickett.

The University of Pittsburgh signal-caller was originally recruited by current Carolina head coach Matt Rhule when he was at Temple University to play for the Owls. Panthers owner David Tepper is also a Pittsburgh graduate.

It also couldn’t hurt that Pickett would go from one Panther franchise to another.

But, the NFL’s Panthers have struggled with quarterback consistency in recent years. They need an NFL-ready quarterback now, and it’s hard to think that any other quarterback in the 2022 draft is more ready to start in the upcoming season than Pickett.

Cam Newton, who is still on the 2022-23 roster after a brief departure, was the only constant since 2011.

He was under center from 2011-17, playing some of 2018 prior to an injury before the Panthers went on a carousel.

Carolina cycled through Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen, Will Grier, Teddy Bridgewater, P.J. Walker and Sam Darnold all since 2018 — with again signing Newton back to the team in 2021, despite trading for Darnold.

Throughout the offseason, Rhule has hinted at Carolina wanting a day-one-ready quarterback, and Good Morning Football Host Peter Schrager literally calls Pickett that in his 2022 Mock Draft.

Pickett’s college resume backs up the claim, and it began in his first-ever start for the college.

He led the Panthers to an upset win over the then-ranked Miami Hurricanes in 2017, despite being the No. 3 QB on the depth chart.

He finished his career going 33-16 for just over 12,300 yards with an 81:32 touchdown to interception ratio. He also added 20 rushing touchdowns.

For this year’s draft, Pickett is being compared mostly to Andy Dalton, mainly because of his full-field reads when he passes, his ability to stay ahead of closing coverage and his arm strength.

The things Carolina would have to work with him the most include leading throws and expedited releases, climbing to scan the field instead of drifting outside the pocket and having his feet follow his eyes.

However, he has also been compared to Joe Burrow, who made it to the Super Bowl in 2022 despite coming off ACL surgery and basically having a non-existent offensive line, as well as Kyler Murray, who could lead his team in rushing, too, if needed.

The NFL Draft begins April 21 at 8 p.m. eastern.