2011 NFL Mock Draft: If Andrew Luck Goes Back to Stanford, Who's No. 1?
If Andrew Luck decides to head back to school, will it turn into bad luck for whoever drafts No. 1 overall?
If it's the Carolina Panthers, in what direction should they head? Fix the defense or fix the offense?
Supposing that the Carolina Panthers have the top pick, let's take a look at some of the possible choices for the 2011 NFL draft.
1. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Many Carolina fans may be wondering the same thing.
Is Jimmy Clausen not the quarterback we thought he was going to be? Or does he just not have the talent around him to let him shine? With the possibility of Steve Smith gone next year, the Panthers might have to look to fill that crucial wide receiver spot.
A.J. Green from Georgia is the best wide receiver in his class and should be taken in the top five if not selected first overall by Carolina.
Double coverage? No problem. Green has all the playmaking abilities that NFL scouts love. He will force NFL teams to keep an extra eye on him.
2. Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
The Panthers run defense is currently 23rd in the NFL allowing 126.2 yards per game on the ground.
Marcell Dareus led the SEC in sacks in 2009 and was named Defensive MVP of the 2010 National Championship game. Carolina is 19th in the league in sacks with 27.
Dareus is fast off the ball despite his 6'4", 306-pound frame. Carolina is desperate for a run stopper, as 126.2 yards is a lot to give up on the ground every game. He can play both defensive end and defensive tackle.
Dareus is probably the best defensive tackle in the 2011 class.
3. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Ryan Mallett has a cannon. The Arkansas quarterback has passed for over 8,000 yards in his career with the Razorbacks and is leading them to a Sugar Bowl appearance.
Mallett stands at 6'6", giving him the ability to see over any offensive lineman and seems to be stronger than Clausen. If the Panther line can protect him, he will be able to make plays. If he is forced to scramble from day one, his ability will be threatened.
If Carolina gives up on Clausen this early and Luck doesn’t enter the draft, expect Mallett to end up a Panther.
4. Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Same situation here as with Marcell Dareus. Bowers is another beast inside who has harassed ACC quarterbacks for the past two seasons.
He has 144 tackles this season and is certainly a top 10 draft pick.
During his time at Clemson, Bowers recorded the most sacks in the history of the program. At 6'4", 280 pounds he should immediately effective no matter where he ends up.
5. Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Another choice at quarterback for the Panthers would be Jake Locker out of Washington.
His stock may have dropped a bit this season, but he is still one of the best quarterbacks available if Luck doesn’t enter the draft.
Locker has thrown for 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this season. Not the stats that he had hoped for but Locker is still a solid quarterback and should be at the next level.
Not as big as Mallett, but Jake Locker is another quarterback with great size, standing at 6'3", 230 pounds.
6. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
Harry How/Getty Images
Another defensive tackle who can get inside and cause trouble is Oregon State Beaver Stephen Paea.
Paea had at least one tackle-for-loss in 12 of his last 18 games.
Paea earned All American honors and Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. He’s a little smaller at 6'1", but makes up for his height in his 311-pound frame. He can get to the quarterback and bring him to the turf.
7. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Carolina’s pass defense isn’t Houston Texans-caliber just yet, but could use a little improvement.
Peterson is one of the best CB’s to come out of this class and can make an immediate impact wherever he goes. Think along the lines of how Eric Berry has improved the Chiefs secondary.
Peterson stands at 6'1", 222 pounds and has fantastic cover ability. He limited AJ Green to just four catches and Julio Jones to three this season.
8. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Julio Jones has been a playmaker at Alabama for the past three seasons. He has the size and strength to go up in the air and grab balls over NFL-sized CB’s.
However, his ability to break away from CB’s will be more difficult but is an aspect of his game that can improve in the NFL.
A downside to Julio Jones is that he sometimes has a bad case of the drops. Overall, still an NFL-type receiver who should make his team happy wherever he ends up.
Just look at those pythons!
9. Anthony Castanzo, OT, Boston College
In a strange turn of events, the Panthers may go for an offensive lineman.
Considered one of the best in the draft, Anthony Castonzo could be a solid choice to help protect whoever may be taking snaps for Carolina next season.
Castonzo would fill the tackle roll and has the size, standing at 6'7", 308 pounds. If Carolina decides to stay with Clausen, Castonzo could be a choice to try and give him some time in the pocket.
Lord knows Clausen needs it.
10. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Highly unlikely, but to hit on all of the Panthers' needs (which is a laundry list) let’s look a tight end scenario.
Another key to the passing game would be acquiring an effective tight end. Just look at how San Diego played the first half of the season with Antonio Gates. A dominant tight end can fill the role of a No. 1 receiver like in the case this season without Vincent Jackson.
Kyle Rudolph has a huge frame at 6'6", 265 pounds and is regarded as the best tight end in his class. Plus, the Clausen-Rudolph chemistry will already be there.
If he goes in the first round, he’ll probably be the only tight end to do so. Carolina may have bigger issues, but he’s still worth a look.