NFL Combine 2011 Results: Should Carolina Panthers Take Patrick Peterson No. 1?

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IMarch 1, 2011

NFL Combine 2011 Results: Should Carolina Panthers Take Patrick Peterson No. 1?

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    Now on the clock: the Carolina Panthers.

    With the NFL Combine winding to a conclusion, teams have almost gathered all the information they will have on a player before the NFL Draft.

    There will still be pro days, but for the most part the players have made their statement.

    And the Carolina Panthers get their pick of the bunch.

    Should they make LSU's Patrick Peterson that pick?

No. 5. Yes: Super Freak

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    Peterson is a rare athlete. He is 6'1" and 219 pounds, which is great size for a corner. He is also as explosive as any player in the draft.

    He posted the second fastest time at this year's combine in the 40-yard dash at 4.34.

    He also had a vertical of 38" and a broad jump of ten-and-a-half feet.

    He put up 15 reps on the 225 pound bench press test.

    Everyone knew the guy was an elite athlete, but these numbers were even better than expected.

    This is a rare size/speed combination, and it is going to make it hard for any team to pass on him.

    To put this in perspective, Chris Low of ESPN called him the most explosive athlete he has seen in the SEC since Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson.

    Peterson is less than ten pounds lighter than each of those all-time freakish athletes.

No. 5. No: Team Needs

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    With the No.1 pick teams should be concerned about drafting the best player, and not trying to fill a team need.

    And, let's face it, if you are drafting No. 1, chances are your entire team is a hole that needs to be filled. 

    However, if there is not a clear-cut best player, there is no harm in giving the edge to the player the team needs more.

    Defensive backs may actually be the strongest area of the Panthers' team. They have a couple of capable young starters at corner in Captain Munnerlyn and Richard Marshall.

    The Panthers finished 2010 with the ninth ranked DVOA against No. 1 receivers and the first ranked against No. 2 receivers.

    They do not have great depth at the corner position, and Marshall's contract has expired.

    They could clearly find a way to put Peterson's services to use, but it is certainly not their biggest need.

No. 4. Yes: Prime Time Approves This Message

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    Deion Sanders put Patrick Peterson under his microscope to see if he could "poke holes" in the young man's game.

    The best Sanders could come up with was, “I’d like to see him a little quicker—took too many steps to get to a certain point.”

    This is a matter of footwork and experience—an area in which Peterson should improve.

    After that nitpicking Sanders went onto say, “Peterson, he did nothing to persuade me not to think of him as the No. 1,”

    Now, Sanders is not an official scout, but he certainly does know a thing about corner play.

    We already discussed Peterson's freakish size/speed combo, and Sanders assessment shows us that Peterson has the fluidity and quickness to go with it. The only flaw Deion could pinpoint was a slight inefficient use of steps.

No. 4. No: Marcel Dareus

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    The Panthers aren't going to find any flaws in Peterson to suggest he is not a potential Hall of Fame corner. What they may find, however, is that the skills and promise of another player is more enticing.

    Marcel Dareus may be that player. Dareus faced constant double teams in the 2010 season. This led to uneven production, but he also showed the ability to dominate games.

    Dareus has the flexibility and athleticism to slide to end in a 3-4 while also having the size and strength to be a true nose tackle or "0" technique NFL defensive tackle.

    He weighed in at the combine at 319 pounds and measured 6'3".

    He ran the 40 in 4.94 seconds.

    He is a beast. He excels in stuffing the run. His explosiveness allows him to put pressure on QBs as well.

No. 3. Yes: Extra Credit

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    Peterson brings to the table something none of the other prospects do: a legitimate shot to dominate on more than one side of the ball.

    In 2010 Peterson averaged 11-yards per punt return and he took two of his 38 returns to the house. He also averaged 29.2 yards on 32 kick returns.

    He averaged 33.5 yards per interception return on his four picks in 2010. 

    When he gets the ball in his hands he knows how to use that just discussed size/speed combo.

    The dude is a flat-out game changer.

No. 3. No: Da'Quan Bowers

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    Da'Quan Bowers did not workout at the NFL combine as he is still recovering from a tear in his right knee. The injury is not believed to be serious, and he should be ready to roll whenever NFL training camps start.

    While Bowers did not get a chance to put his abilities on display at the combine he did during the 2010 season. His 15.5 sacks led the nation.

    He is widely regarded as the top defensive end and pass rusher in a draft that is top heavy in both categories.

    Rushing the passer is at a premium in the NFL and Bowers has the look of someone that will be doing just that for years to come.

No. 2. Yes: Risk Management

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    While it can take a corner longer to adjust to the NFL game than defensive lineman, Peterson offers less risk than the Panthers' other options.

    Obviously, he has the athleticism that will allow him to adjust to the speed of the NFL. He also does not have any history of injury.

    While his linemen counterparts could go on to have long careers, top-notch pass rushers have a short shelf-life, and as defensive tackles age they are usually limited to run stuffers.

    Peterson has all the looks of someone who could go on to have an elite 15-year career.

    He has the size and ball skills that will allow him to switch to safety when he ages and slows down.

    Peterson has an exponentially greater chance of being an every down factor in the NFL 10-15 years from now than any of the d-linemen.

No. 2. No: Nick Fairley

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    Nick Fairley spent his 2010 season skyrocketing up draft boards, and for good reason. He took over games.

    Leading up to the combine he has been the most common selection for the Panthers in mock drafts.

    He is the rare defensive tackle that can be an elite pass rusher while still being stout against the run.

    When measured at the combine Fairley was smaller than expected. His 291 pounds means he is likely never going to be the nose tackle type, but he showed the explosiveness that will allow him to excel as an end in a 3-4 or tackle in a 4-3. 

    Fairley ran the 40 in 4.89 seconds and he posted a 31" vertical jump.

No. 1. Yes: Positional Value

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    A true shutdown corner may be the most rare commodity in the NFL. With a shutdown corner you can effectively eliminate a team's primary receiving opting and you don't need to worry about zone defenses or safety help to do so.

    It is why Nnamdi Asomugha is the top free agent this offseason, and why Darrelle Revis's holdout carried so much weight last season.

    And they may be the two only legitimate shutdown corners in the game today.

    Patrick Peterson could be better than both.

    He is faster and bigger than either. He is taller than Revis and just one-inch shorter than Asomugha.

    While he lacks the freakishly long arms Asomugha uses to be an especially effective bump corner his strength and bulk will be a big advantage in this area.

    And the speed means you can leave the kid on an island.

No. 1. No: It's All About the QB

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    One need look no further than last year to see how this draft may play out. It was widely believed that the Rams would select Ndamukong Suh with the first selection in the draft.

    He was the most freakishly gifted athlete on the board, and the top QB prospect, Sam Bradford, had some legitimate injury concerns.

    Yet the Rams proved, as many teams have, that the opportunity to draft a franchise QB was too great to pass up.

    The Panthers may very well decide that Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert is their QB of the future.

    While they just spent a second-round pick on Jimmy Claussen, he certainly did not show anything to prove he was going to be an elite QB.

    If the Panthers believe either Newton or Gabbert is that elite level QB they will be the pick.

The Verdict

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    Take PP! Peterson is just too rare an athlete to pass on.

    More than any other player in the draft, Peterson has the best chance to become the premier player at his position, and it is a highly valued position.

    His athleticism is off the charts, and his ball skills are not far behind. He has been durable, and he has the body and potential to be a difference maker in the NFL for closer to two decades than one.

    I see every reason to believe that Peterson could go on to have a Rod Woodson type of career.

    With the lack of a surefire franchise QB, Peterson needs to be the selection.