Five weeks from Thursday night the Carolina Panthers will kick off the 2011 NFL Draft by making the first selection. While they have a ton of holes to fill and it will take more than one draft to turn the franchise around, the Panthers could put a dent in their rebuilding effort by having a solid showing this year. Obviously, that will start at the top, and Carolina may have already narrowed down its choice to two players.
Apparently the Panthers have narrowed things down to Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Those two have emerged thanks to dwindling support for Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and the complete disappearance of Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley from consideration.
The current favorite to land in Carolina is Dareus, who has shot up draft boards lately. Dareus currently holds the top spot on Scouts Inc.’s board and grades out as a 97. Dareus measured in at 6’3 and 319 pounds at the combine, where he shined. Todd McShay currently has Dareus going to the Panthers with the top pick, while Mel Kiper has the Panthers taking Gabbert.
So the two ESPN analysts are apparently split on which direction Carolina should go in. McShay thinks the Panthers will go with Dareus because current general manager Marty Hurney drafted Jimmy Clausen last year and signed Matt Moore in 2007. Therefore he has two quarterbacks he believes in on the roster.
Given Dareus’ size, quickness and versatility, we’d have to agree that he has to be the favorite at this point. It will be interesting to see how this develops over the next five weeks, because anything could happen between now and then.