I am sure I am not alone in this thinking, but the idea that the Panthers are contemplating the selection of either Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert with the #1 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft may prove to be a very poor choice.
For starters, most NFL gurus seem to think that all the quarterbacks in this class need seasoning, and not one of them is ready to make the jump to be a Game 1 starter in his rookie season. With that premise, the same needs to be said for last year's Panther picks, Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike. Neither were ready, but due to injuries and some struggles, both had to take some snaps.
I personally think Clausen needs another year. Depending upon the status of James Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, there is a decent nucleus for a running game. Steve Smith still can be productive. Not that these are solid reasons to annoint Clausen as a serviceable QB, but it's moreso to establish a better plan.
I don't think there is any secret that the loss of Julius Peppers has hurt the team. Most "experts" believe defenses win championships. being in a division with New Orleans and Drew Brees, Atlanta and Matt Ryan and Tampa Bay with Josh Freeman, the Panthers offense should be the least of its concerns.
In steps Marcell Dareus, the highly touted defensive lineman from Alabama. Projected as a Pro Bowler in-waiting. A player that can move up and down the defensive line to help the defense is more of a need. Carolina finished in the middle of the pack for defensive rankings in yardage allowed, but what should be more concerning is that the team defense was on the field for the 5th most amount of plays in the NFL. That's a concern that needs to be addressed, and it's in the best interest for Carolina to help stop the run better.
And if that doesn't work, go for the best athlete and player in the draft - DB Patrick Peterson from LSU. With the QBs in the division I have mentioned, what better foundation to start by getting a cornerback that can go against the top WRs in the division. This is such a deep defesive line draft, I believe Carolina is better served grabbing Peterson, and then coming back in round 2 to grab one of the defensive linemen that were projected first-round grades. Getting two starters on defense is much too valuable to pass.
But, most importantly, being in the division that the Panthers are in, I see 6 losses. I don't suspect the 2011 season will be any more productive than the 2010 season with Newton, Gabbert or Clausen. I believe the Panthers will finish with the worst record again. If not, say it is Buffalo.
By Carolina passing on Newton or Gabbert in this year's draft will more than likely force Buffalo to draft one of them. My concerns for the Panthers are if they draft Newton, after drafting Clausen in 2010, what happens if they finish with the worst record in the NFL again? Guess who is sitting there for them to select? Andrew Luck from Stanford, who many believe was the clear cut #1 player if he chose to leave school.
If the Panthers pass on a QB this year, and Buffalo does draft Newton, if Buffalo finished with the worst record in 2011, the chances they would select Luck would decrease because of the investment in Newton.
So, therefore, the plan for Carolina should be just this: Draft Peterson or Dareus #1 overall.. draft the best defensive player that falls out of the first round, and then give Clausen one more year to fail, and draft Luck in 2012. The franchise will start to regain prominance.