April 10, 2011

What should Carolina do with the first draft pick?

MORE NFL DRAFT: PFW's Mock draft | Newton vs. Gabbert

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the college football coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in college football. This weekend, we will have two roundtables - one Saturday and one today.

TODAY'S QUESTION: The NFL draft is less than two weeks away. If you're Carolina, who do you take with the first pick?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
All indications are that Carolina will take a quarterback. Therefore, I'd expect them to take Cameron Newton. There was no more dominant player in college football, and if the Panthers are serious about a quarterback, he strikes me as the best option. Some say Missouri's Blaine Gabbert would be a better choice, but is he that much different than Jimmy Clausen, who already is on the Panthers' roster? Newton's athletic ability is just too much to overlook. He's powerful, a strong runner and a good passer. You don't want to be the team that passed up Newton and watch him become a star elsewhere. Frankly, if they don't take Newton, I think they should go for a player at another position - like Texas A&M LB Von Miller or Auburn DT Nick Fairley.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
Give me LSU CB Patrick Peterson. He's the surest thing and most NFL-ready of all the draft prospects. Few corners have his combination of size (6 feet 1/222 pounds) and speed (4.4 in the 40-yard dash). Peterson is equally adept at playing the pass as he is defending the run, able to keep up with fleet receivers and bring down running backs and tight ends. Peterson's ability to impact the game is profound, as a shutdown corner of his ilk can control one-third of the field and let other defenders be dispatched in a variety of ways. Want more? Peterson doubles as a deadly return man. He potentially is the next Rod Woodson. Yes, Peterson could be that good - Hall-of-Fame good.

David Fox's answer:
I know, I know, a quarterback is probably going to be taken No. 1, but is Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert the safe pick Sam Bradford was last year? Bradford had a fine rookie season, but I'm looking at the defensive rookie of the year, Ndamukong Suh, as this year's model for the top draft pick. Auburn's Nick Fairley might have the higher ceiling, but I'd pick Alabama's Marcel Dareus. He's been a part of two top-five defenses, one of which won a national championship. The quarterback class has too many questions, so if I'm Carolina, I'd take the guy who can anchor the defense.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
I think Cam Newton is going to have a fine NFL career, but my choice with the No. 1 pick would come down to LSU CB Patrick Peterson, Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers and Auburn DT Nick Fairley because I think those guys are surer things than Newton. Remember that new coach Ron Rivera is a former linebacker, so finding a defensive stalwart you can build your defense around for 10 years has to be enticing to him. I would take Bowers, who had a nation's-leading 15.5 sacks last season. He was steady in his first two seasons, then exploded as an elite playmaker last season. He always has been solid against the run, which means he won't be a one-dimensional end. Draft Bowers, put him at end, then watch him pile up the sacks and tackles.

Steve Megargee's answer:
If Andrew Luck had decided to enter the draft, this choice would have been a no-brainer. Luck's decision to return to Stanford makes this choice much tougher. I'm not sold on Jimmy Clausen's potential as a starting quarterback in the NFL, but I also have reservations about the quarterbacks available for the Panthers to select in the draft. Auburn's Cam Newton was one of the best college quarterbacks I've ever seen, but I'm not sure how his skills translate to the NFL and I also worry about the off-field issues that surrounded his college career. Blaine Gabbert did not show me enough at Missouri to make me think he's a franchise quarterback. So even though the Panthers need a quarterback, they have enough other needs that I'd suggest they attempt to shore up a different position with their first pick. When teams don't pick quarterbacks early in the first round, they're often looking for offensive or defensive linemen. This draft doesn't have many elite offensive tackles, but it features plenty of quality defensive linemen. Although Auburn's Nick Fairley may have the greatest potential of all of them, Alabama's Marcell Dareus is probably the safest pick because of his ability to play either tackle or end. Dareus is the guy I'd probably take.

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