Kiper: Panthers sticking with Fairley

February, 17, 2011
2/17/11
9:56
AM ET
Mel Kiper has his latest mock draft out and he has the Carolina Panthers taking Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley with the No. 1 overall pick.

I like that call a lot. It’s shaping up like a two-man race between Fairley and Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers for the No. 1 spot. This is no knock on Bowers, who should be a good NFL player. But Fairley would fill a bigger need because the Panthers already have some talent at defensive end.

They’ve got young players like Charles Johnson, Greg Hardy and Everette Brown on the outside. But the inside isn’t nearly as strong. Adding Fairley would change the entire look of the middle of the defensive line.

The other interesting development in Kiper’s latest mock draft is that he has Auburn quarterback Cam Newton going No. 3 overall to Buffalo. Newton’s stock appears to be on the rise after he worked out for the media last week.

Could he jump up to No. 1 overall? Some more good workouts would help. But I think background checks and an interview with the Panthers could be a deciding factor. Newton had some academic issues at Florida and the NCAA is investigating what went on as he decided on his next college. The Panthers generally stay clear of players will troubled pasts. If they’re going to take Newton, they’ll have to be convinced that he comes without problems.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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