2011 NFL Draft: With No Andrew Luck, the Carolina Panthers' New Top 5 Options

Hamza AhsanCorrespondent IJanuary 7, 2011

As breaking news was heard across the nation, stating that Redshirt, Sophomore Quarterback Andrew Luck will stay in school to "complete his degree," many fans were shocked by his decision.

Luck passed up millions of dollars and the chance to be the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, for his education.

He also passed up the opportunity to make the most money by a rookie, in NFL history, since the rookie cap will be added in the 2012 NFL draft.

Personally, I feel he might have made the right decision.

Luck felt that he wasn't ready for the NFL, and maybe didn't want the pressure of being the franchise quarterback of the Carolina Panthers; an organization that is eager to have results fast.

He knows that if he gets injured or even gets cut early in his NFL career, he could just go and become the architect that he got his college degree for.

Obviously, the biggest loser has to be the Carolina Panthers, who made it clear to the public that they would draft Luck with the first pick.

At this moment, GM Marty Hurney has to play with many different scenarios to figure out what his Plan B is with Luck staying in school. 

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Fortunately though, this will be a QB-heavy draft class with great amounts of talent at the quarterback position expected to be drafted within the first few rounds.

Here, are the scenarios, I feel that Hurney should be thinking about when it comes to the 2011 NFL Draft and his first pick.

Scenario No. 5—Draft Patrick Peterson

Known as the best cornerback since Charles Woodson, Patrick Peterson would be a huge boost to the Panthers' secondary. Although Captain Munnerlyn and Richard Marshall had decent years at cornerback, with Chris Gamble struggling all season, look for the Panthers to be taking a look at Peterson.

With Richard Marshall expected to not be returning to the Panthers next season, and with Chris Gamble struggling all this season, there will be a big hole to fill in the Panthers secondary and Peterson could easily fill the hole. 

In college, Peterson was known to be the best shutdown corner, maybe even in the 2000's. With no big time cornerbacks for the Panthers this season, they will be looking to find someone that could handle the role of being that shutdown corner for them.

Even though many teams in college feared throwing it to Peterson, he still was able to find the ball and have four interceptions this season. If I was Hurney I was honestly take a look at the kid, known as the "Second Coming" of Charles Woodson.

Option No. 4—Draft Nick Fairley

Some might call this move crazy, but think about it, the Carolina Panthers defensive line hasn't been the same all season long without Julius Peppers and the huge rotation at the defensive tackle position. Bringing in the 6'5", 300 lbs monster out of Auburn could fix that, and will provide a spark to this defensive line. 

Although you could call this a bit of a reach, by selecting Fairley with the first overall pick, you wouldn't call it that much of a reach after watching his game films from this year. He completely manhandled whoever he was facing and amazingly, as an interior lineman, finished fourth on his team in total tackles.

I believe though, that he would provide the Panthers with a solid inside pass rush that they lacked all season. Fairley finished 10th in the NCAA this season with 10.5 sacks, while the two interior lineman for the Panthers, Nick Hayden and Derek Landri, finished with a combined four sacks all season.

The Panthers should seriously be thinking about Nick Fairley being an option for their team.

Option No. 3—Draft Ryan Mallett

Of all the quarterbacks in the NFL Draft this year, there is no doubt in my mind Ryan Mallett is the best—even despite all the hype of Blaine Gabbert and Andrew Luck. 

I know that the Panthers would be satisfied by drafting Mallett with the first pick: the guy is 6'6" with probably the best arm to come out of college since JaMarcus Russell. And with Luck expected to be the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, there is no better time to pick Mallett than now.

Mallett has been shown all season that he could make big plays and even in the Sugar Bowl he provided his wide receivers with crisp passes, but at times they couldn't even hold on. Mallett reminds me a lot of Jay Cutler by the way he fits the ball into the tiniest of gaps.

Even though many scouts are not fans of his accuracy and decision making, Mallett still proved he could be a big time quarterback, after leading the Razorbacks to their best season since 2006, when they had Felix Jones and Darren McFadden in their backfield.

With Luck out of the picture, Mallett seems to me like the second best choice for the Panthers.

Option No. 2—Draft A.J. Green 

With Steve Smith getting a lot older and more of an injury risk for the Carolina Panthers, they should be looking at a solid wide receiver to be the replacement if Smith will not return in the near future. As seen earlier this year, David Gettis and Brandon LaFell are not ready to be No. 1 receivers for the Panthers.

To fix this, the Panthers should look to draft A.J. Green out of Georgia. Green was known as the best wide receiver in college this year, even though he was suspended for the first four games this season. Green has the best upside to be a top NFL wide receiver coming out of the NFL draft, since Calvin Johnson.

In just nine games this season, Green has managed to gain just under 850 yards along with nine touchdowns. And he helped make quarterback, Aaron Murray, one of the best freshman in college football. Green has tremendous potential and would be a huge upgrade at the receiver position for the Panthers.  The Panthers will be looking to draft the prospect labeled the next "Randy Moss" and "Larry Fitzgerald."

If I were the Panthers, and I was going to give Jimmy Clausen another year, or draft a quarterback in the second round, I would for sure draft A.J. Green out of Georgia.

Option No. 1—Trade The Pick

Now I know this might be a bit of a surprise to most, but I strongly think that the Panthers should be looking to trade this pick. Many teams will still be looking for top players and will pay heavily to gain the rights of the first pick.

The Panthers could package a deal to a team like the 49ers, the Cardinals, and even the Titans, and in return gain the rights to a QB like Cam Newton, Ryan Mallett, or Blaine Gabbert, without paying them top pick money. They would also receive an additional second round pick that would help them draft a receiver or lineman that might have slipped in the draft.

With the trade of the first pick, they would have a lot more spending money for a solid free agent, like a Brandon Mebane out of Seattle. They might also have enough money to resign their star defensive end, Charles Johnson.

All I am saying is that while trading the first pick in the draft, the Panthers will be more flexible on what to do and will have a lot more money to help their team rebuild, while still drafting their future franchise quarterback.


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