2011 NFL Mock Draft: Should the Carolina Panthers Take Newton at No. 1 Pick?

Mihir Bhagat@mihirbhagatSenior Analyst IIIApril 13, 2011

The 2011 NFL Draft is just over two weeks away and the Carolina Panthers are on the clock with the No. 1 overall pick. 

They're coming off a dismal 1-15 campaign and will be looking to rebound off it going into next year.

Of course, one of the first steps of doing so will be capitalizing on the draft which starts with the great debate: Who Should They Take No. 1?

In this year's class, while there may not be a clear-cut top choice, there's a plethora of talent to choose from.

Seven out of the past nine No. 1 picks have been quarterbacks and this time around the Panthers can choose from either Auburn's Cam Newton or Missouri's Blaine Gabbert. In a pass-dominant league, having a franchise quarterback is critical yet the opportunity to grab one is rare. That so, it may be wise to pick one up here.

If they choose not to go in that direction, there are a few defensive players such as Texas A&M OLB Von Miller, Alabama DT Marcell Dareus, and LSU CB Patrick Peterson. All are elite players and will likely have successful pro careers wherever they end up.

Taking a look at the Panthers roster, they could use help at any one of those positions (which is probably why they only won one game last year).

However, I believe their biggest void lies at the quarterback spot where they haven't had stability since their Super Bowl run in 2003 when Jake Delhomme threw for 3,886 yards and 29 touchdowns.

Much different than the three touchdowns and 58.4 passer rating Jimmy Clausen put up as a rookie last year, huh? Perhaps thats why they by far ranked dead last in passing with merely 143.1 yards per game.

With that said, even though a defensive player may be the safer choice, I don't believe they will have the same impact as a new signal caller would.

By adding one, they would also be able to utilize their current offensive playmakers such as wideout Steve Smith and relieve pressure off their dynamic running back duo of DeAngengelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart.

So now the million dollar question (or $80+ million in this case) is whether Newton or Gabbert is a better fit for their franchise.

Both offer a unique skillset and would be a major upgrade, but if I were calling the shots I would go with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

Cam Newton, who led Auburn to a National Championship title, has proven that he's a leader and can win big-time games which are both essential ingredients for an elite quarterback in the NFL today.

Moreover, his incredible athleticism and underrated accuracy provide him with the tools to make all the throws and be the commander at the helm for their offense. 

The only real question surrounding him are his passion for the game but based on my evaluation of him it should be a non-issue. Sure, he may have said that he wants to be viewed as an "entertainer and an icon" but I believe that was taken out of context. Personally, I don't believe he's the next JaMarcus Russell.

So with that cleared out, I think it'd be a wise decision for the Carolina Panthers to select Cam Newton with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. 

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