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Wednesday, January 12, 2011
What should Panthers do with top pick?

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Mel Kiper has his latest Big Board out. If Carolina’s board looks anything like Mel’s on draft day, there’s an excellent chance the Panthers will use the first pick of the draft on a defensive lineman.

With Andrew Luck staying in college and Cam Newton, who hasn’t declared if he’ll enter the draft, falling on Kiper’s board, the top two players are defensive linemen. Kiper has Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley at No. 1 and Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers at No. 2.

The Panthers might give Bowers a few extra points because he’s a local kid and that sometimes has been an important factor to owner Jerry Richardson in the past. But, with the emergence of Charles Johnson this season, I don’t think the need is as great at defensive end as it is at some other positions. The Panthers also have ends Everette Brown and Greg Hardy, who have plenty of potential.

Defensive tackle has been a problem spot for the Panthers ever since they lost Kris Jenkins and Maake Kemoeatu. There might be some temptation to go with an offensive player because the Panthers have made it clear they intend to improve their offense.

But the only offensive player in Kiper’s top five is Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green. When new coach Ron Rivera was introduced to the media Tuesday, he made it a point to talk about how he likes Brandon LaFell and David Gettis, who each showed some promise as rookies. The Panthers also have veteran Steve Smith. If Smith decides he wants out, the Panthers would trade him and that would create a need for a No. 1 receiver. That’s the only scenario where I see the Panthers going for Green.

That’s still a long shot. Receivers usually aren’t taken as the No. 1 overall pick and Carolina’s history with drafting receivers shows that they often take time to develop, if they develop at all.

With the rest of the talent Carolina already has in place adding Fairley could make the defense a solid unit. It might be wise to make that happen first and spend the rest of the draft and free agency working on the offense.