WR should make Clausen better
Quick, name a wide receiver picked No. 1 overall who ended up a bust.
Got an answer?
There isn't one. Really. Of course, it's also a bit of a trick question. The last wideout taken No. 1 overall was Keyshawn Johnson in 1996. Before that, it was Irving Fryar in 1984. They combined for 1,665 catches and 23,356 yards during their careers. Before that, only Dave Parks in 1964 qualifies as a modern-style wide receiver drafted No. 1 overall. He also was no bust. We know these numbers say more about the perceived value of wide receivers than they do about how safe the pick is. But if making a safe pick and looking out for the development of the quarterback is what Carolina really cares about, the Panthers should take A.J. Green, a guy certain to be a star at the next level.
Let's face it -- as I've said before -- there isn't a quarterback in this draft Carolina should expect to be a starter in 2011. In fact, Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert could use at least a year of seasoning on an NFL bench if a franchise really wants the most out of them. Although there are also good defensive players available, if Carolina takes Green, the Panthers would help two positions immediately. If Carolina intends to develop quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who is just 23, it should give him the best target in the draft and create a chance to build chemistry. Green is superior to Panthers receivers Brandon LaFell and David Gettis, and drafting the Georgia receiver would take the onus off both of them. It makes sense from a personnel standpoint.
Green can do everything you want in an elite wideout. He can stretch the field, draw safety help on anything deep and open up passing lanes elsewhere. He can go over the middle and make catches in traffic, and he has the size (a hair under 6-4 and 211 pounds) to dominate the red zone. Green also has great speed (4.48 40 at the combine) and runs great routes.
If Clausen doesn't improve with Green, the Panthers will know they don't have their man at QB. If they want someone else altogether, the new starter will at least have an elite target. Either way, Carolina gains a solution.
Mel Kiper has been the premier name in NFL draft prospect evaluations for more than three decades. He started putting out his annual draft guides in 1978, and started contributing to ESPN as an analyst in 1984. For more from Mel, check out his annual draft publications or his ESPN home page. He can also be found on Twitter here.
Panthers have a huge DT need too
I've said all along that the Carolina Panthers should not select Auburn quarterback Cam Newton with the No. 1 overall pick. I continue to believe that the questions about the offense Newton played in, the amount of work he needs as a passer and his intangibles make him too much of a risk.
Because the Panthers' need for an impact defensive tackle is just as big as their quarterback need, and because his complete skill set makes Marcell Dareus the No. 1 overall player on my board, Carolina should take the Alabama DT with the top pick.
Dareus has the size (6-foot-3[, 319 pounds) and versatility to play at any spot along the defensive line, and his time spent with Nick Saban at Alabama means Dareus knows how to play in multiple schemes and could grasp the Panthers' system immediately.
With Dareus' ability to use his quick first step to penetrate, use his size and strength to control 2-gaps, and use his powerful hands to get off blocks, he would be a disruptive force against the run for the Panthers.
He can also win with quickness or power as a pass-rusher, and his feet never stop moving when he is pursuing the quarterback. Dareus also has the necessary motivation and mental toughness to be a success in the NFL, a lack of which causes many other defensive tackles -- and quarterbacks, for that matter -- to bust at the next level. There are no worries about Dareus' ability to handle life in the NFL. (Check out Jeffri Chadiha's recent profile of Dareus on ESPN.com.)
There are three other elite prospects in this year's class -- Texas A&M OLB Von Miller, LSU CB Patrick Peterson and Georgia WR A.J. Green -- but none fill a pressing need for Carolina the way Dareus would. By the way, I don't believe Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert is worthy of the No. 1 overall pick, either.
Given all those factors, there is no doubt in my mind that Dareus is the player who should hear his name called when the Panthers go on the clock Thursday night.
Todd McShay is the director of college scouting for Scouts Inc. He has been evaluating prospects for the NFL draft since 1998. Follow McShay on Twitter: @McShay13