Fantasy is reality: Luck goes before Newton

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
11:15
PM ET
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Would you take Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck or the Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton if you were starting an NFL team?

Assuming, that is, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady aren't available.

Hall of Famer Deion Sanders answered that question -- sort of -- on Wednesday by selecting Luck over Newton with the first pick on the second day of the inaugural Pro Bowl Draft.

The honorary captain also took Newton, with his second pick, after Hall of Famer Jerry Rice passed on the opportunity to pair Newton with the Carolina coaching staff. The honorary captain for the Ron Rivera-coached team selected New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham with his first second-day pick.

Of course, having Saints quarterback Drew Brees on his selection committee might have swayed that one.

But regardless, Luck went before Newton. And in reality, that likely would have happened in 2011 had the former Stanford quarterback come out after his sophomore season when he was projected to be the top pick to Carolina.

But amidst speculation that he didn't want to go to Carolina -- which he never confirmed -- Luck returned to Stanford and the Panthers chose Newton out of Auburn.

The Panthers really coveted Luck. There were reports they would take him No. 1 before he opted to stay in school.

So in reality, Sanders kept Rivera from getting Luck a second time -- not to mention getting Newton.

Sanders also made sure Newton wasn't being chased by Carolina middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and defensive end Greg "The Kraken'' Hardy. He drafted Kuechly in the eighth round and Hardy, who led the team with 15 sacks, in the 11th.

Left tackle Jordan Gross, a late addition when the San Francisco 49ers' Joe Staley pulled out due to injury, went to Team Rice in the 18th round.

The Panthers have seven players in Hawaii, tying the team record set in 1996. On Tuesday, Rice picked Carolina center Ryan Kalil and fullback Mike Tolbert.

Rivera had a chance to take a third member of his team, but chose Indianapolis long snapper Matt Overton instead of J.J. Jansen.

Thanks to Sanders he didn't have that option with Newton, who by the way did go ahead of San Diego Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers, Kansas City Chiefs' Alex Smith, and the Philadelphia Eagles' Nick Foles.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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