Can Panthers grab some draft Luck?

If the season ended today -- and there are plenty of Carolina fans, players and coaches who wish it did -- the Panthers would hold the No. 1 pick in the 2011 college draft.

Here’s some stuff on how the draft order (at least the top stands). This is coming straight from ESPN Stats & Information, so I’ll leave it in their words:

The draft order goes from worse to better won-loss records, with ties broken by strength of schedule (team with “easier” schedule picks first) and then applicable conference/division tiebreakers. Obviously, the two Monday night games can’t be factored in yet.

IMPORTANT NOTE: For the purposes of this projection, each team’s FULL-SEASON STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE is used – meaning the “SOS” number includes the records of all opponents on the team’s schedule, not just the schedule the team has played to date.

Great, so the Panthers get the first pick in the draft. The conventional wisdom is that the first player picked in the draft will be Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.

Oh, that’s just wonderful. I can see it now. About this time next year, the team’s “leader’’ and best player will come out and say something like “He ain’t in Stanford anymore, that’s for sure’’.

Listen, I know this might not be what a lot of Carolina fans want to hear, but I think there’s still a good chance Jimmy Clausen is the quarterback of this team going forward. I’m not saying I’m sold on Clausen by any means. In fact, I don’t think you can even judge him on this season because he’s been in an offense that’s been beyond dysfunctional.

I’m saying Clausen might be the guy going forward because the people that will be sticking around with the Panthers next season (and that list doesn’t include coach John Fox) still think Clausen can be a good NFL quarterback.

That said, those same people also realize they might not even a choice other than to take a talent like Luck. But other than the Panthers winning a couple of their last three games, there are a couple scenarios where the Panthers might not end up with Luck.

First off, there’s a common assumption that Luck, a junior, automatically will enter the draft. Some people who are watching this situation very closely are saying they’re hearing Luck might stay at Stanford for his senior season.

Then, there’s one other thing to keep in mind. It’s entirely possible the Panthers could try to trade out of the top spot and add some additional picks. They did that once before.

In their expansion season (1995), the Panthers briefly held the No. 1 pick. Then, they traded out of that spot. Cincinnati had the first pick and took Penn State running back Ki-Jana Carter. Carolina took Penn State quarterback Kerry Collins with the fifth overall pick.

Speaking of Penn State guys, when I was talking to Carolina general manager Marty Hurney not too long ago, I offered him a little advice. I told him he can turn this thing around if he goes out and drafts some more Penn State players.

Then, I told Hurney who I think he should take with the No. 1 overall pick -- Penn State running back Evan Royster. I was serious about the first part, but even a Penn State fan can’t really believe Royster is the top pick in the draft or even a first-round choice.

Hurney knew I was joking and laughed. It was kind of nice to hear a laugh from a guy who hasn’t been able to do much of that recently.