2011 NFL Mock Draft: Carolina Panthers' Draft Take

Jake CoxCorrespondent IApril 27, 2011

2011 NFL Mock Draft: Carolina Panthers' Draft Take

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    The Carolina Panthers have the top pick in the draft on Thursday after a disappointing 2010 season. 

    Ron Rivera takes over as head coach, and I think that he will be a good coach for the Panthers.  One thing that the Panthers need to figure out is who is going to be their quarterback of the future.

    Jimmy Clausen really struggled in his rookie season, and he may not be the future for the Panthers at quarterback.  The Panthers could consider a quarterback in round one of the draft on Thursday. 

    DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are one of the better running back duos in the league. 

    However, Williams is a free agent and he may command too much money for the Panthers to bring him back.  Steve Smith is no longer the number one receiver that he was for so long in Carolina. 

    David Gettis and Brandon LaFell are solid No. 2 and 3 receivers who will be big parts of the Panthers’ offense for years to come.  Yet neither one of them are number one type receivers, so the Panthers could look to bring in a top receiver. 

    The tight end combo of Jeff King and Dante Rosario is less than average and a replacement is needed.  The offensive line is pretty solid overall, especially at tackle with Jeff Otah and Jordan Gross.  Ryan Kalil is one of the better young centers in the league, and guards Travelle Wharton and Geoff Schwarts are adequate starters too.

    Charles Johnson is a very good young pass rusher, but he is a free agent this season.  I think the Panthers will bring him back, as they can’t afford to lose their best pass rusher.  Greg Hardy and Everette Brown are talented young ends who will get every chance to develop into good pass rushers. 

    Nick Hayden and Derek Landri were the starters last season at defensive tackle, but neither one of them is starting material. 

    It’s possible that the Panthers could get upgrades over both of the current starters in this week’s draft.  Jon Beason is a top young linebacker, and the leader of the defense. 

    The outside linebacker group is uncertain heading into next season, as James Anderson and Thomas Davis are both free agents.  They are both solid players, so it’s possible that both of them could be back next season. 

    Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall give the Panthers two good starting cornerbacks, but Marshall will likely be elsewhere next season.  They have good depth at the position though, with Captain Munnerlyn as the nickel back, along with 2010 rookie Robert McClain. 

    Charles Godfrey led the team in interceptions last season and is an adequate all around player.  Sherrod Martin could be replaced, but he will most likely be the starter next season, because of the fact that the Panthers have so many more pressing needs to fill in the draft.

2010 Draft Recap

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    2. (48) QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame: He was thought to be the quarterback of the future, but he had an awful 2010 season, but he is still very young.  13 GP/ 10 GS

    3. (78) WR Brandon LaFell, LSU: He played pretty well for a rookie, and he could contend for a bigger role next season.  14 GP/ 2 GS

    3. (89) WR Armanti Edwards, Appalachian State: Edwards is transitioning from the quarterback position, so he didn’t see much playing time last year.  3 GP/ 0 GS

    4. (124) OLB Eric Norwood, South Carolina: He is an intriguing player who will challenge for a starting linebacker spot this next season. 15 GP/ 0 GS

    6. (175) DE Greg Hardy, Mississippi: Hardy is a nice pass rushing weapon, and he will be a key to the Panthers defensive line next season. 15 GP/ 0 GS

    6. (198) WR David Gettis, Baylor: Gettis was very surprising last season, as he earned himself the starting spot opposite Steve Smith.  15 GP/ 13 GS

    6. (202) CB Jordan Pugh, Texas A&M: Pugh was a pleasant surprise, as he contributed on both special teams and on defense.  15 GP/ 2 GS

    6. (204) QB Tony Pike, Cincinnati: Pike will likely compete for the number three quarterback position, but he’s nothing but a developmental player at this point.  1 GP/ 0 GS

    7. (223) CB R.J. Stanford, Utah: He never got in a game as he spent the majority of his rookie year on the practice squad.  0 GP/ 0 GS

    7. (249) CB Robert McClain, Connecticut: Another surprising player who is a solid backup and special teams player.  16 GP/ 2 GS

    Summary: This draft has produced some solid players thus far, but this draft can’t be considered a success due to the struggles of Jimmy Clausen. 

    He isn’t viewed as the franchise quarterback at this point by many people, but he has to play better if given the chance in 2011.  This draft produced nice depth, but is lacking a high impact player.

    Grade: C

Team Need: Quarterback

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    The Panthers thought they had solved this position when Jimmy Clausen fell to them in the draft last season. 

    He got thrown into the fire a little bit earlier then he probably should have, but he struggled badly.  I don’t think that the Panthers will move forward with him as the quarterback of the future, and it’s highly likely that the Panthers will consider a quarterback number one overall.

    It’s time for the Panthers to decide whether they want to move forward with Clausen, or do they want to take someone like Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert to be the new franchise quarterback.

Potential Quarterback Targets

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    Round 1: Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert

    I don’t think that the Panthers will take a quarterback in any round unless it is in the first. 

    They don’t have a second round pick, so it eliminates them from waiting until round two to take someone like Andy Dalton. 

    Newton and Gabbert are both reaches at No. 1 overall, but I think it is very possible at this point that the Panthers go with Newton. 

    He has the potential to become a top quarterback in this league, and the Panthers will strongly consider making him the top pick.

Team Need: Defensive Tackle

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    The Panthers are severely lacking some beef on the front of the defense. 

    Nick Hayden and Derek Landri are adequate starters, but neither one of them is the impact player that the Panthers need. 

    This is another position that the Panthers could consider taking with the top overall pick because Marcel Dareus and Nick Fairley would be the type of player that would fit perfectly in Carolina.

    This is a position that the Panthers could take multiple players at in the upcoming draft, as both current starters could be upgraded.

Potential Defensive Tackle Targets

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    Round One: Nick Fairley, Marcel Dareus

    Round Three: Kenrick Ellis, Terrell McClain

    Round Four: Cedric Thornton, Lawrence Guy

    I think that Dareus and Fairley are still viable options for the number one overall pick, but I wouldn’t say that they are the favorites. 

    Defensive tackles aren’t usually considered for the number one overall pick, but the need is a big one for Carolina, so it’s possible that one of them is picked first on Thursday.

Team Need: Cornerback

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    The Panthers have a pretty solid group of starting cornerbacks in Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall, but Marshall is a free agent who won’t likely be back next season. 

    The Panthers do have Captain Munnerlyn as their top backup, but he is better suited for a nickel role.  The Panthers got a good showing from a couple of late round rookies last season, but they are still unproven.

    The Panthers won’t likely take a cornerback in the first, but I personally think that Patrick Peterson is the best overall talent in this draft, so the Panthers will consider him.

Potential Cornerback Targets

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    Round 1: Patrick Peterson

    Round 3: Davon House, Jalil Brown, Kendric Burney, Curtis Marsh, Rashad Carmichael

    Round 4: Chimdi Chekwa, Shareece Wright

    Round 5: Chykie Brown, Marcus Gilchrist

    Peterson will be highly considered, but I think that they may hold off until round three or four and take someon like House or Wright. 

    Both players could compete for the starting cornerback position next year if Richard Marshall decides to leave via free agency.

Team Need: Wide Receiver

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    Steve Smith is no longer the number one type receiver that he was for so long in Carolina.  He has struggled with injuries, and his speed isn’t what it used to be. 

    David Gettis and Brandon LaFell look like they’ll be solid contributors in the future, but neither of them are No. 1 type receivers.  The Panthers may consider taking a receiver No. 1 overall.

    This isn’t necessarily the biggest need of the Panthers moving forward, but they will at least consider taking A.J. Green No. 1 overall due to his immense talent.

Potential Wide Receiver Targets

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    Round 1: A.J. Green

    Round 3: Niles Paul, Vincent Brown, Greg Salas, Randall Cobb, Tandon Doss

    Green is one of the best receivers to come out of the draft in recent years, and he would instantly provide the Panthers with the number one receiver that they are currently lacking.

    However, they may decide to hold off on a receiver until the later rounds to continue to build up the depth at the position.

Team Need: Tight End

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    The Panthers have been lacking an impact player at this position for some time now.  

    Jeff King and Dante Roasario would make solid backups, but they are not really threats in the passing game.

      The Panthers have bigger needs than this moving forward, so they may not address this position early on in the draft. 

    I can see the Panthers maybe using a mid round pick on this, but they have bigger needs that they’ll have to address first.

Potential Tight End Targets

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    Round 3: Lance Kendricks, D.J. Williams, Luke Stocker

    Round 4: Virgil Green, Julius Thomas

    Round 5: Rob Housler, Lee Smith

    Round 6: Jordan Cameron, Weslye Saunders, Schuylar Oordt

    Green and Thomas will be intriguing options in round four, as they are athletic players who could develop into solid threats in the passing game. 

    Oordt is a late-round favorite of mine, who I think will develop into a very nice player.

Other Possible Needs

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    Offensive Guard: Geoff Schwartz could stand to be upgraded, so a late round pick could be used to upgrade this position.

    Outside Linebacker: Thomas Davis and James Anderson are solid outside linebackers, but they are both free agents.

    Running back: DeAngelo Williams is a free agent, and if he isn’t back next season there will be a hole at running back next to Jonathan Stewart.

Team Draft Strategy

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    The Carolina Panthers will have a new identity next year with Ron Rivera at head coach. 

    Having the No. 2 pick is a good in the fact that you have the chance to draft the best player.  However, if that player busts, it can haunt your franchise for years. 

    The Panthers will have a tough decision to make, as there are many talented players available at the top that could warrant being drafted first overall.

    I personally think that the Panthers will take Cam Newton at this point, as he would give them a true franchise quarterback who can develop into a star. 

    There are a few other players the Panthers could consider in round one, but whoever they take needs to turn into a star. 

    I think the Panthers will be better next season, as they have some solid young talent on the team, but they still are lacking the franchise quarterback who can lead them back to the playoffs in the future.