This year the first pick in the NFL Draft belongs to the Carolina Panthers. The team formally announced that they wanted Stanford Quarterback Andrew Luck with this top selection, but when he went back to school someone made a lot of money. The John Fox era is over in Carolina, enter former Chargers Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera. With a laundry list of needs, the Panthers could use an upgrade at almost every position. It’s up to Rivera to decide what he’s got in young Jimmy Clausen and where the first overall pick would be used. Like the Miami Dolphins in the 2008 NFL Draft, there’s no obvious #1 and no prospect in this class screams “can’t miss.”
There are many comparisons to be drawn between Carolina’s situation this season and the decision that Miami faced just three years ago. That 2008 Draft lacked a sure-fire top player and graded out fairly weak at the top. The Dolphins, under a new regime, had holes at most positions and were forced to choose from: the Quarterback (Matt Ryan), the unanimously safe offensive talent (Jake Long), and potential defensive cornerstones (Chris Long, Vernon Gholston.) Similarly, Carolina could be tempted by the Quarterback: Auburn’s Cameron Newton. They could target the safe, offensive building block: Georgia Wide Receiver A.J. Green. Defensive-minded Ron Rivera may want to add a cornerstone in that side of the ball in Auburn Tackle Nick Fairley or Clemson End Da’Quan Bowers. If the Panthers choose not to re-sign Richard Marshall or are unable to, LSU Cornerback Patrick Peterson even becomes a viable possibility.
Five positions. Five players. One pick. What’s the best business move, and is that the best move from a strictly football standpoint? The possibilities are numerous but without a viable top prospect or most glaring need, it’s a crap-shoot projecting the First Overall Pick in 2011.