Feeling Drafty #1: Carolina Panthers

March 27, 2011 at 6:00 pm (Sports) (, , , , , , , , )

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Charles Johnson racked up 11.5 sacks for the down-trodded Panthers, and was named Carolina Team MVP.

Wow.  How did so many things go so wrong for Carolina?

They weren’t preseason Super Bowl favorites or anything, but nobody thought they would be THIS bad.  They had the most dynamic running duo in the league in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart (trio if you include Mike Goodson).  They had one of the best wide receivers to ever play the game in Steve Smith.  Their quarterback situation was ideal:  let Matt Moore play in “game manager” mode until Jimmy Clausen is ready to play.  And they had one of the most underrated talents at linebacker in Jon Beason.  So, what happened?

What happened was the injury fairy came to Charlotte.  Williams spent most of the season on the bench nursing a foot injury and was placed on IR just a few weeks before he would be ready to play.  Moore, Clausen, third-stringer Tony Pike, and journeyman Brian St. Pierre played starting QB musical chairs before Moore went on IR, in turn, throwing Clausen into the fire.  Smith was plagued with injuries of his own and a horrible relationship with Clausen.  Other notable IRers included two-time Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil, both starting TEs Jeff King and Dante Rosario, and starting CB Richard Marshall who was their third-leading tackler.  So, yeah.  This entire team is about as sturdy and unbreakable as balsa wood.  Is it any wonder that there’s an opening for a new strength and conditioning coach for Carolina?

So, how can this team turn around?  Well, most of their problems will be resolved by returning veterans coming off of the IR list.  A case could be made for a wide receiver, but a general consensus is WRs don’t go #1.  Only two WRs have ever gone #1, Irving Fryar and Keyshawn Johnson, and those guys have gone to a combined nine Pro Bowls, and are both potential future Hall of Famers.  Besides, that’s a problem that can be resolved with the second-round pick.

I really didn’t want this to happen, but it looks like Carolina is going to go quarterback with their first-round pick.  I would’ve much rather preferred Carolina pick up one of the many excellent defensive linemen in this season’s draft.  But, if the lockout continues, that means that there won’t be free agency.  That means that teams won’t be able to solve their key problems with free agents.  They’ll have to solve them through the draft.  Plus, I think if Carolina doesn’t replace Jimmy Clausen, the fans may riot.

I don't like it, but the Carolina Panthers will probably go with Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert with the #1 overall pick.

And with the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers select…

Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert.  He may not be perfect.  He doesn’t have the cannon attached to his shoulder like some other quarterbacks in the year’s draft.  But he’s smart, he’s accurate, and he’s athletic enough to make defenses conform to him.  I still think that Gabbert will be a bit of a project, and we won’t see his true potential right away, but he is still the best quarterback in this year’s draft, and that’s what Carolina wants right now.

It’s not what they need, but it’s what they want, and it’s what the fans want.

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