Could Panthers go with CB at No. 1?

Conventional wisdom is that the Carolina Panthers will take a quarterback, defensive end or defensive tackle with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft.

Since it is January, none of the NFC South teams are in the Super Bowl and we have no idea how the league’s labor situation will play out, let’s play around a bit with conventional wisdom and have some fun.

LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson was scheduled to meet with the Panthers at the Senior Bowl on Tuesday. For perspective, let’s remember that virtually all draft prospects meet with virtually every team at the Senior Bowl or combine and some get invited to private interviews as the draft gets closer. For more perspective, Peterson also is scheduled to meet with the New Orleans Saints, who hold the 24th overall pick, at some point this week.

Now, let’s veer away from perspective a bit and ask the thought-provoking question: Could Peterson be the No. 1 choice in the draft? It’s at least possible.

Peterson is a very good cornerback and a lot of draft experts currently have him rated among the top 10 overall players, with some ranking him in the top five. It’s pretty much universally accepted that Peterson will be the top cornerback taken. But teams often frown on using the No. 1 overall pick on a cornerback.

Would the Panthers fall into that category? Maybe and maybe not.

Quarterback is their biggest need, but it remains to be seen if Carolina will deem Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert or any other quarterback worthy of the top pick.

Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley would seem to be the safe choice. He plays a position where the Panthers have a need and most experts have him rated either at the top or very close to it. Then, there is Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. Opinions on him are similar to those of Fairley. Defensive end isn’t as great a need for the Panthers after the emergence of Charles Johnson this season, but Bowers still would have to be a consideration.

But cornerback also could be a need position for the Panthers. They’ve got some decisions to make on Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall. Gamble has a big contract, but fell into the doghouse of former coach John Fox last season. It’s not known yet how new coach Ron Rivera feels about Gamble. What is certain is Marshall didn’t endear himself to the front office by seeking a big contract extension before last season. There haven’t been any changes in the front office, so it’s unlikely the feelings toward Marshall have changed.

That means the Panthers could be looking for one or two cornerbacks this offseason. If Peterson impresses throughout the interview process and continues to impress on the field, he could be a consideration for the Panthers at No. 1.