Carolina Panthers: Why They Should Put Their Money on Defense in the 2011 Draft

Aaron YoungCorrespondent IIIMarch 31, 2011

The Carolina Panthers have a lot of holes to fill before the 2011 season. One of the obvious positions that need improvement is the quarterback. The question the Carolina organization must be asking themselves is: “Will we draft another quarterback early this year?”

Several names have been tossed into the discussion on who will be the Panthers’ starting quarterback this upcoming season. One of the names that have been discussed frequently among fans and journalists is Cam Newton.

Newton, the athletic Heisman Trophy winner out of Auburn University, has gotten all the hype he could ever dream of to improve his stock. Several mock drafts have him going as early as the 2011 first pick overall when the Panthers have their pick.

Former head coach, John Fox, is now long gone and Ron Rivera must be excited about his shot at proving his worth as a head coach in the National Football League. It is very common in the NFL that, as a new head coach takes control of a football team, a new quarterback is about to arrive town.

Personally, I think the Panthers are very concerned about how any quarterback they may draft to be their franchise quarterback will turn out. With the question marks surrounding Cam Newton, chances are that Carolina will not pull the trigger on him that early in the draft.

The fact of the matter is that the Panthers are in rebuilding mode. Any team that finishes with a 2-14 record should be. This means that a lot of changes need to happen.

Among these, the Panthers desperately need an upgrade at defensive tackle, right defensive end and wide receiver. One can argue that Jimmy Clausen still deserves a second chance. Additionally, if Clausen does not work out, it will be a lot easier for a newly-drafted quarterback to develop if there already is a team around him.

The tight end is often one of the quarterback’s favorite targets. Creating mismatches everywhere, a good receiving tight end can alter the game for his team in a heartbeat. During Coach Fox’s reign, the tight end was not often utilized as a receiver, but everything suggests that’s about to change.

During the offseason, the Panthers signed Jeremy Shockey. He was highly productive for both the New York Giants, where he was a safety blanket for Eli Manning as he was developing, and in New Orleans.

Although Shockey’s career might be nearing its end, it is likely that he has more than enough left in the tank to provide the safety blanket any developing quarterback like Clausen needs.

With Shockey, the need at tight end takes pressure off the desperate situation at wide receiver.

Still, the Panthers must go defense with their first overall pick.

What many teams that suffer throughout a season typically lack is someone who looks like they would put a restaurant into bankruptcy if they ever attended one of the restaurant's “all-you-can-eat-buffets."

Marcell Dareus and Da'Quan Bowers both fit the bill when it comes to draft needs.

Dareus, the standout defensive tackle of Alabama seems to be a lock to go in the Top Five in the draft, and missing out on him could be a costly mistake. The only knock on him is that he lacks experience, but if he could blow up games in the SEC, it is likely that he could do it in the NFL, as well.

When it comes to Da'Quan Bowers, the top defensive end prospect is coming off surgery, which might cause his value to drop slightly unless he can prove that he is ready to go already come preseason. Because of the question mark on Bowers' health, it is likely that the first pick overall will be Marcell Dareus.

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