1. Which player will be the Carolina Panthers’ First Overall Pick?
RYAN: I have said it since January; I expect the Panthers will wind up taking Cam Newton with that first pick. They will surely consider Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert and Alabama Defensive Tackle Marcell Dareus, but in the end I believe the Heisman Trophy winner holds the edge. After taking Jimmy Clausen with their first pick (Second Round) a year ago, many will believe the Quarterback position already has its’ young heir. Unfortunately, the Notre Dame product proved himself to be mentally weak, ineffective as a passer, and he appears unlikely to have convinced the new coaching staff. A common misconception is that Clausen was a big investment for GM Marty Hurney, but in reality, he makes far less than $1 million a year. Additionally, the team publicly declared they would replace him if Andrew Luck were to enter this years’ draft.
So why Cam Newton if they do go Quarterback? It may sound funny, but I think they will approach the pick with a “go big or go home” attitude. With Gabbert, there is some concern that he may lack the thick skin needed to take punishment and improve through adversity. Newton spent the second half of the 2010 college season playing while enduring a media-frenzied NCAA investigation. How did he handle it? Every week he got better and he eventually led Auburn to a National Championship. There is reason to believe Cam loves the spotlight and thrives in it. As the Panthers are in dire need of a new franchise face, this appears to be a perfect fit. He may not be the most NFL-ready prospect in this draft, but he continues to improve with more on his plate. So even though they could take the “safe” way out and go with a defensive player, I expect Carolina to roll the dice on the 2011 class’ poster boy.
ROB: I’ve always thought that the Panthers had five options for the first pick, and to the surprise of many, Blaine Gabbert isn’t one of them. I’ve felt that the Panthers options were: AJ Green, Patrick Peterson, Cam Newton, Nick Fairley or Marcell Dareus. My reasons for these 5 players are simple. AJ Green and Patrick Peterson are the two highest rated players on my board, Nick Fairley and Marcell Dareus are the top defensive lineman in a very talented class, and finally, I think Cam Newton is the only Quarterback option for the reasons my colleague stated.??It is known by most now that Blaine Gabbert has some of the worst pocket presence of any top Quarterback in recent memory. That alone should scare the Panthers away from taking the Missouri QB with the number 1 pick.??The Panthers will likely be scared away by Fairley’s baggage, and I don’t think that Dareus was dominant enough in 2010 to warrant being the number 1 overall pick. The #1 hype for Dareus came as soon as everyone started to question Fairley, who at the time everyone had going number 1. So, naturally, Dareus was the next best choice to put in that spot.??Although I tend to agree with Ryan that Cam Newton’s odds of being picked number 1 increase with every passing day, to play Devil’s Advocate I’ll say that I think one factor in the final decision could be the new CBA. The Panthers know that there will be a rookie pay scale and because the first overall pick isn’t going to be the investment that it usually is, the Panthers may be more inclined to take the safer route and select AJ Green or Patrick Peterson with their pick.
2. Who is the most Overrated player in this year’s draft?
ROB: If you had asked me this question two months ago, I would have probably told you Colorado Offensive Tackle Nate Solder, who at the time was some people’s top OT. Solder has fallen down most boards, now, probably close to where he should be – an early second round prospect.
Now, I’m forced to sound redundant and talk about how Blaine Gabbert suddenly jumped from decent QB project with tools you like, to possibly being the first overall pick. People assume that because the last time there wasn’t a Quarterback taken in the top 3 picks was 2000, there has to be a QB taken early in this draft as well. Unfortunately, this year the Quarterback class has many more questions than answers and because Blaine Gabbert has the least number of questions, he automatically shot up to the top QB on many boards. This makes no sense in my mind. With every NFL prospect, there are more questions than answers and our job is to find out what we know.
?We know that Gabbert lacks instincts that every starting QB in the NFL needs – he has no idea how to let a pocket form around him and he doesn’t react well to pressure. That should automatically be a huge red flag to everyone. Coaches can’t teach instincts, plain and simple. Coaches can correct a flaw in throwing mechanics, or how the player reads defenses, but how they move in the face of pressure is instinctual. It’s not to say that Blaine Gabbert can’t be a good NFL quarterback, because he could be. But when you’re drafted in the top 10, you’re expected to preform within 2 years and I think Gabbert might need more time to develop than that.
RYAN: Rob, I’ll be honest, I am right there with you on Gabbert. I think he is hands down this draft class’ most overrated player. There is a reason that no one was talking him up as a First Round prospect before he declared. That reason: he was a very average college football player. For the sake of discussion though, I’ll bring forth a couple other names: Missouri Defensive End Aldon Smith and Florida State Quarterback Christian Ponder.
The Seminole signal-caller has generated First Round buzz this offseason, and I personally cannot wrap my head around it. Ponder has always been a player who looks the part, acts the part, and moves like an NFL Quarterback; however, he never blew me away during his college career. I question his arm strength and ability to make every throw at the next level. Durability has been an issue as well, as he has had several injuries to his throwing arm. His accuracy and poise are both good, but certainly not elite. Overall I have to say I like him as a prospect as a stop-gap starter, but not as the franchise passer some are making him out to be. It is likely he will come off the board in the first 40 picks or so, but I think that team will be getting a very ordinary starter that will not live up to his billing.
While I believe Aldon Smith is a First Round value, I think he is a prospect many are getting the wrong impression of. If you were simply to read about the guy, you would assume he is an uber-athletic edge rusher with the burst and hips to be a premiere pass-rusher in the NFL. I can dispute those sentiments directly. Smith lives on the inside move, where he uses his hands violently. He is simply put, ineffective, rushing the edge. The problem is: instead of firing off the snap into the backfield, he typically stands straight up out of his stance. His hips are too tight to allow him to leverage tackles and enter the backfield quickly off the end. He does not maneuver well in space, so the Linebacker projections are way off in my opinion. This idea of elite athleticism and versatility has some thinking Top 15 for him, but I would consider that a reach. I think Smith has value in the late first as a 4-3 end who will play two downs outside, then move inside a rush the passer from the 3-Tech position on third down.
3. Which of the top Wide Receivers do you prefer: Julio Jones or AJ Green? And, why?
RYAN: I am taking Julio Jones. While I certainly will not take anything away from Green, I think Jones is the more ready to contribute immediately at the next level. He has possessed an NFL body since high school, and now is an imposing 6’2 3/4 220, rocked up with muscle. His speed turned heads at the Combine when he unexpectedly blazed a sub 4.4 time in the 40. That explosiveness shows up on film too, as he is dynamic with the ball in his hands. He has proven to be a powerful runner after the catch and will not go down easily. I would not say he is overly elusive, but appears quick enough to develop into a very good route-runner. His toughness is an admirable quality, as he played through multiple injuries in college and shows some grit as a run-blocker. Julio is an exceptional red-zone and possession option; he will come down with contested balls in traffic and turn short passes into big gains. Due to his superior fit in the West Coast Offense, I imagine he will be the first receiver off the board. His style perfectly fits AFC North teams, Cincinnati (4) and Cleveland (6), near the top of the draft.
ROB: I have AJ Green as my top prospect in the draft, so it’s no surprise that I prefer him to Jones. I see Green as the best Wide Receiver prospect since Calvin Johnson. AJ Green is nearly a perfect prospect as you can find for a number 1 WR. He’s tall (6’3 5/8″) with fantastic hands, tremendous leaping ability, a great route runner, and dangerous in the open field. He isn’t the biggest guy in the world and will probably add about 5 pounds to his frame before he maxes out. He’s extremely fluid and showed the ability to sink his hips quickly to run great routes. Green made a mistake by selling one of his jerseys, which cost him a 4 game suspension, but he’s hardly a character concern. I think he will have an immediate impact for whichever team drafts him. I think the thing that separates AJ Green from Julio Jones is his ability to create separation, even if it’s just with his extremely long arms (34 3/8″).