After Andrew Luck declared he would be staying at Stanford, it became obvious the Panthers were going to have to go with a defensive player with the No. 1 overall pick.
While most in Carolina (not Jimmy Clausen) are upset at Luck's decision, they still have their choice of any player they want—and their choice should be Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers.
First, Bowers is just a physical freak. He is 6'4", 275 pounds, and runs a 4.8 forty. He had 15.5 sacks and 24 tackles for loss this season.
In fact, his 15.5 sacks were more than 23 D-1 football teams totals.
His athleticism and explosiveness have drawn great reviews from scouts. While he does not have a signature move (spin or bull rush, for example), Bowers tenacity allows him to constantly get pressure on opposing QB's.
Most importantly, Bowers has little risk involved in drafting him, which makes him stand out from other top draft picks.
The Panthers could go in a number of other directions with this pick. Many scouts have them drafting Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley. He anchored the line of the National Champions, but I really worry about his consistency.
He was a beast this season, but last year he only had 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Maybe the large jump in production can be attributed to an increased work ethic, but Fairley could just as easily be a one season wonder. And I would not take a player No. 1 overall with that risk involved.
To boot, his low productivity his sophomore year could be because of laziness, and if I am drafting a player to be the face of my franchise, I would want him to be the first in and the last out of the training facility.
The Panthers could also go a number of other directions, but no other pick would be as good as taking Bowers. They could select Georgia WR A.J. Green to help young QB Jimmy Clausen, but taking a receiver first overall is unheard of.
LSU corner Patrick Peterson is also a possibility, but the Panthers really have a pressing need for a defensive lineman after losing Julius Peppers to free agency last offseason. And some fans still want a QB, but Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert (the new No. 1 QB with Luck gone) just is not the same caliber player as Luck is.
Drafting him first would be quite a reach.
Regardless, the Panthers can't miss on this pick, as they won't have another pick until the third round (they traded their second round draft selection to the New England Patriots).
Bowers is not only a safe pick, he is genuinely the best player in this draft.