According to a source close to the situation, barring a miracle, the Carolina Panthers will make Auburn quarterback Cam Newton the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft tomorrow night. We have since heard a similar story from another source.
While it has been rumored for weeks that Newton was the front-runner to be taken with the top pick, the Panthers have held the public stance that they weren’t leaning in any direction. Indeed, tonight the organization is publicly saying it is still considering up to four players with the top pick.
That stance appears to just be posturing however, because after some 12 meetings with Newton, new Panthers head coach Ron Rivera is sold on the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner. Our source says that barring something crazy happening over the next 24 hours, Newton will be the top pick. The Panthers would love the opportunity to trade down and stockpile draft picks, but looking at the current trade market, that doesn’t appear likely.
Therefore the Panthers are left with two options: Take the top player on the board, or take the flashiest guy who could help sell tickets. They’re going with the later.
Newton will likely not be ready for some time, he has a lot of developing to do, and it could take at least two years for him to be even close to a competent NFL quarterback. But, he would probably add a lot of excitement to an organization in desperate need of some.
Newton is not the best player available in this draft. In our opinion, he’s not even in the top 10. Scouts Inc. has him ranked as the No. 15 player on its board, while Mel Kiper similarly has him at No. 15 on his Big Board.
The Panthers will be taking a huge risk by taking Newton, but with no clear-cut value pick available at No. 1, it might be a risk they have to take.