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My advice to Panthers: Take Dareus

Chris, I like your Patrick Peterson pick. He's probably the best defensive back in the draft and he's also a special playmaker.

Carolina has lacked a true difference-maker on defense since Julius Peppers left and Peterson is the kind of player who could fill that void.

However, the Panthers' secondary isn't that bad off. Carolina ranked 11th in the league in passing defense in 2010, giving up 212.1 yards per game and allowed just 19 passing touchdowns, which was sixth-best in the NFL.

Plus, Carolina hired former San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera whose defense was statistically the best in the league last season and was first in passing yards allowed (177.8).

Rivera could probably work wonders with Peterson in his secondary, but it doesn't appear as though cornerback is a position of need this early in the draft.

The No. 1 pick is nothing to joke about, and since the Panthers currently don't have a second-round pick, general manager Marty Hurney has to fill the position of greatest need for his team.

Most are predicting the Panthers to select Auburn quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. But is that the best move? The Panthers already have Jimmy Clausen, who might have struggled mightily in his rookie season, but shouldn't be considered a bust after just one year. I agree that quarterback is a position of need for the Panthers, but to use the first overall pick on one -- especially one with as many question marks as Newton -- would be unwise.

So, I'm going with Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. The Panthers need help on the interior of their defensive line and Dareus is the type of player who could make an instant impact in Carolina -- and for the next few years.

Quick: Name Carolina's starting defensive tackles from last season. Yeah, neither could I.

Dareus, who Scouts Inc. ranks as the top overall prospect in the 2011 NFL draft, has the complete skill set as a defensive lineman and can play just about every position on the line. He's also pretty versatile at 6-foot-3, 319 pounds and played in multiple schemes under Alabama coach Nick Saban.

Dareus has a tremendously fast first step, mammoth strength and is a proven leader. He'll plug running holes and harass opposing quarterbacks. He's also quite athletic. Everyone should remember the interception he returned for a touchdown in the 2009 national title game on his way to MVP honors.

Dareus had 34 tackles, including 11 for loss, and 4.5 sacks last season. He also had four pass breakups, four pass deflections and 10 quarterback hurries.

Quarterback is a need, but the Panthers have to address the gaping hole on their defensive line and Dareus is just the guy to plug that gap.