It’s hard to blame 2010 rookie QB Jimmy Clausen for the woes of the franchise. Sure, Clausen looked every bit the rookie on his way to a grossly underwhelming 2010 campaign where he amassed only 1,558 yards on a 52.5% completion percentage and a 3:9 TD/INT ratio, but it’s not as if any member of the offense was stepping forward to take the team upon their back. While the Panthers did finish 13th in rushing yards, their 32nd rank passing offense was all too representative of how they would end the year, with a 2-14 record and the first pick in the 2011 NFL draft.
Making matters worse was a head-scratching trade that saw the Panthers send what ended up being the first pick in the second round to the shark-like and circling New England Patriots for the rights to draft WR Armanti Edwards. Being that Edwards totaled no catches and only a single rushing attempt, it would seem that Patriot’s resident trade wizard, Bill Belichick, pulled off yet another draft day coup. The end result is that the Panthers and new head coach Ron Rivera are now looking down the barrel of the first pick in a year where no clear QB sits atop the rookie heap and question marks surrounding their own 2nd round QB selection, Jimmy Clausen.
So what’s Carolina to do?
The prevailing rumor is that the Panther’s are likely to choose a QB with their first pick and that Auburn’s Cam Newton is likely to hear his name called. Missouri’s own Blaine Gabbert is in the mix as well, but seemingly is trailing Newton for consideration. Carolina brass has been defending Newton early and often as criticisms arise, leading many to believe that this further shows their hand. While that could be the case, with rumors also existing that the Panthers are looking to move down in the draft, support of Newton could just as easily be a smokescreen.
Whether you like Clausen or not as a potential franchise QB, it is far too early to determine whether or not he can live up to that billing. The Panthers need additional help on the offensive line, badly needed an upgrade at TE before the off-season signing of JeremyShockey and need further development from all receivers not named Steve Smith. Even Steve Smith found himself frustrated and out of synch with Clausen, resulting in his worst year since hi2 2004 injury-shortened campaign. Should the Panthers decide that another QB is needed, a similar year to 2010 most likely awaits.
You’d be hard pressed to find many NFL experts that don’t have the Panthers selecting a QB with their first selection. Expert or not, chalk me up as being in the camp that doesn’t believe the Panthers can make that pick this year. As mentioned previously, the 2011 rookie class of quarterbacks is intriguing in the area of potential, but far from previous years in first-pick quality at the position. Should 2010’s Sam Bradford be sitting in the room when the Panthers are on the clock, I’d be much more amenable to the situation. But that not being the case, far too many other needs exist within the franchise for another high QB selection.
If the Carolina brass are able to recover a 2011 2nd round selection for Clausen or perhaps trade further back into the first round, a better case can be made for a Cam Newton selection. Trades of extremely high picks, let alone the first pick, are rare and without the talent at the top, that is not a likely scenario. A second round pick in 2011 would also allow the Panthers to forgo a QB selection until the second round, in which there will be many intriguing names still on the board. Far more likely is the fact that the Panthers will have to decide on a selection and make the pick. And they have to make it count.
For a team like Carolina, a single pick in the first 64 doesn’t bode well heading into 2011. Spending it on another rookie QB, while so many other needs exist, flies in the face of reason. I understand that a face-of-the-franchise is needed, but so is offensive support to support those currently lining up. With needs along the defensive line, especially within the interior, Alabama’s DT Marcell Dareus would be an immediate impact upgrade. Standout LSU CB Patrick Peterson would be a stellar addition to the defensive backfield but CBs rarely go early. Perhaps even of greater need and of sounder reasoning, would be the addition of Georgia WR A.J. Green, who would provide not only an additional dynamic target for Clausen, but a much-needed body to take the pressure off of the aging Steve Smith on the other side.
Cam Newton is the name that is likely to be called at the top of the draft, but I don’t believe this will be a popular selection for anyone involved. It’s not sexy to take a defensive lineman with the first overall pick, but simply make the call to Houston and ask them how it is they were able to bypass the Hollywood glitz of Reggie Bush for a selection of DE Mario Williams and the result of that choice.
Jimmy Clausen, love him or hate him, deserves another year to grow under center. Those around Clausen deserve a selection that clearly moves the team forward. Either way, Carolina, it’s likely you’re going to be in the running for Stanford’s Andrew Luck in 2012.
…and you need far more than Luck in 2010.