2011 NFL Draft Round 1 Analysis: Why Carolina Took Cam Newton

Jeff PencekCorrespondent IIApril 29, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell greets Carolina Panthers #1 overall pick Cam Newton from the Auburn during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The NFL draft is the "Summit of Professional Sports." It's the one event where fans of every team (except the Raiders) have hope for a day. Analyzing the picks in the moment is such a shaky proposition, because nobody knows how the player will mesh with their pro coaches and management and his teammates. All I can do is look at the current team, look at opportunity costs and give top of the head opinions that will probably look idiotic by February.

1. Carolina Panthers (Cam Newton): Carolina took Cam Newton because Michael Vick was so successful last year and because Carolina screwed up previously. Vick at times dominated the headlines and the league when he was on, and Carolina sees a lot of the same throwing and running abilities in Newton.

Carolina is also in a division with Josh Freeman, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees, and to compete, they need a star QB. They were needy last year and picked Jimmy Clausen, at this point wasting a second-round pick. They had no second-round pick this year, eliminating a QB there.

I'm just not convinced it's the right decision, because the rest of Carolina isn't good. The Eagles had playmaking receivers to help Vick look great, The Panthers have a few nice receivers but no star receiver and a project at QB. A linebacker or defensive tackle would have been a great gift to Ron Rivera. Instead, they have to hope Cam is like more Vick and Eli Manning than David Carr or JaMarcus Russell.

2. Denver (Von Miller): A team that had zero attitude in defense and was horrendous last year in almost every aspect, picked a playmaker. He'll need a lot more help to truly make an impact, but the pick makes perfect sense and is a start to rebuild a shot unit.

3. Buffalo (Marcell Dareus): The Bills have put zero priority on being physical and stopping the run, so this is a nice surprise. There is still talk of the Bills running a 3-4, which is crazy given that they have one good linebacker, one Brett Favre streak-ending backer, a good defensive end who failed as a linebacker and two big athletic guys in the middle with Dareus and Kyle Williams. The Bills still have plenty of issues, but it's a refreshing step in the right direction.

4. Cincinnati (AJ Green): I sense this is a sucking up to Carson pick. They take the best receiver, get rid of the traveling reality show duo and move forward. With Jerome Simpson, Jordan Shipley, Green and Jermaine Gresham, this receiving corp could be really good really soon. The only question now is if Palmer is still an elite QB. Oh yeah, the other question is why is Marvin Lewis still the head coach?

5. Arizona (Patrick Peterson): Arizona viewed this draft as a smart franchise should, pick the player you think is the best. Arizona currently has zero viable QB options, so they're not incredibly smart, but it makes sense to take the best corner and find a QB elsewhere. Arizona was pretty bad against the pass last year, and they now have another guy in a style of defense that really strives to be aggressive and score points.

6. Atlanta (Julio Jones): Reason No. 1 why mock drafts are useless. I think Atlanta gave up a lot and picked more luxury than need. If Julio Jones is a star receiver, he is incredibly valuable to the offense and makes the Falcons crazy dangerous. A good number of the star receivers in the league are early picks. However, there are also the Wes Welker, Stevie Johnson, Mike Wallace types who go must later and make just as much of an impact. With Atlanta already having a star receiver, I felt that the Falcons needed defense first, especially since the last time I saw Atlanta they got lit up.

7. San Francisco (Aldon Smith): Part of me is hoping that Blaine Gabbert becomes a star, because then San Francisco can absolutely hate themselves for passing on a QB when they more than anyone needed one. Defensive ends are always very tricky since a lot of them flame out. Hopefully the Patrick Willis work ethic rubs off on Aldon and he doesn't flame out.

8. Tennessee (Jake Locker): Never underestimate the power of the crazy owner. What? Tennessee's defense was terrible last year so of course quarterback was the most important issue when many defensive players were valuable here. To get past the Vince Young era, Tennessee drafts a quarterback very similar to...Vince Young. I heard some great analysis from Norm Hitzges of the Ticket in Dallas (if you love the draft, look up the Ticket, they cover every pick in detail). He said that Kevin Kolb could be had for a second-round pick. Instead, teams are picking the unknown with a first-round pick. Amazing and typical.

9. Dallas (Tyron Smith): Dallas needed offensive line desperately, so this pick makes perfect sense. What also makes perfect sense is that almost a lot of picks in the last few years for the Cowboys have not panned out. The Cowboys have lost years in terms of the draft (2006 and 2009 specifically). Dallas should also worry about the USC work ethic lingering on Smith. The issue with him being a right tackle is a non-issue to me, since so many speed rushers are left ends.

10. Jacksonville (Blaine Gabbert): The David Garrard era was nice while it lasted. I sensed there was an issue when the Jags had the path to the playoffs and couldn't pull it off, with the big blow being an interception in overtime at home against the Redskins. Fitting that Jacksonville traded with Washington to get Gabbert. The spread debate doesn't make a lot of sense to me, because Rodgers, Ryan, Brady, Manning and Roethlisberger all run some form of the no-huddle spread offense at random times of the game.

11. Houston (JJ Watt): They basically need everything on defense so an end will work here.

12. Minnesota (Christian Ponder): The rationale here is that there was such a rush of quarterbacks that Minnesota needed to take one here. Of course, no other QB was picked in the first round after Minnesota. It's like running to a train in hopes that you make it, jumping on it out of breath and then sitting there for five minutes before it leaves. You feel really stupid. They still don't have a QB or a stadium for this year, but besides that, Minnesota looks great.

13. Detroit (Nick Fairley): A lot of the talk before the draft was that Nick Fairley looked to have the most bust potential of any high pick. That was before the Lions get to team him up with the best young DT in the NFL. The Lions pick exhibits the biggest truth about the NFL draft. A lot of the success of the players picked depends on situation, and being the second-best defensive tackle on a team takes away a lot of pressure on Fairley.

Morphing into NBA draft phase for a minute, I have left the lottery stage and now will present the highlights of the rest of Round 1.

Miami invested in a center, reliving the Dwight Stephenson era, as Mike Pouncey will be snapping the ball to um..um..Tyler Thigpen? Andrew Luck would enjoy Miami.

Thirty-one teams sit back and watch the Patriots year after year manage their draft like a franchise, and 31 teams rarely ever follow it. The Wildcat, on the other hand, is copied by everyone. It's a copycat league only when the copying is easy.

From Detroit at No. 13 to Seattle at No. 25, only the Giants picked a player that was not a lineman. This is very similar to an NBA draft, where team after team just picks the athletic mold they feel is most fit for the league, without concern or desire for skill. Some of those guys will do well, but picking the ninth-best defensive lineman feels like a reach when the second-best linebacker or best safety is still on the board.

The first running back of the draft is No. 28. If anyone should be fighting against the rookie cap for the first five years for players, it should be running backs. They have the shortest career span and now apparently have little draft value.

Whoever gets Da'Quan Bowers will get a guy who has been through a horrible injury and now has a chip on his shoulder. I really like players like that. It helps that Thurman Thomas was my favorite player in the 90s.

Andy Dalton was not drafted in the first round. Gingerism, I tell ya.

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