Until now, conventional wisdom has had the Carolina Panthers taking either Auburn’s Nick Fairley or Clemson’s Da’Quan Bowers with the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. The Panthers have needs along the defensive line and grabbing one of those two guys would give new head coach Ron Rivera a solid foundation to build upon.
Apparently, conventional wisdom is changing.
According to Mel Kiper’s latest Mock Draft, the Panthers could be looking to take Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert with the top pick. Kiper reasons that the selection of Gabbert would go beyond need. It would put the Panthers in a position of power, especially considering that a new NFL labor agreement would likely contain a rookie wage scale. So anyone who took a franchise quarterback via the draft would be getting him at a discounted rate.
What does that mean? Well for starters, the NFL Draft could start to look more like the NBA Draft, where players are selected then traded. If their salaries are already determined, it makes it much easier to trade drafted players. The NFL rarely sees selected players traded on draft day. That could change with a new collective bargaining agreement.
If the Panthers took Gabbert they could then auction him off to the highest bidder, or keep him and have their own franchise quarterback. Clearly Carolina’s front office isn’t sold on Jimmy Clausen’s future potential and Gabbert has most scouts drooling.
After a solid workout in Indianapolis at the NFL’s Scouting Combine, Gabbert answered a lot of lingering questions. That said, his pro day may be one of the most anticipated this year, and will probably be one of the most attended. Gabbert is 6’4, 234 pounds, looks the part and has a strong, accurate arm. I don’t know how he’ll be in the NFL, but his main competition for the top quarterback spot is Cam Newton, who people either love or hate.
We’ll probably know where Gabbert fits in the overall draft picture after his pro day next week.