Carolina Panthers Draft Is Key Indicator of NFL Lockout


The NFL Lockout doesn’t have an end in sight.

The players are prepping for their individual anti-trust lawsuits versus the league, the league is too busy preparing for the annual player selection meeting next month.

However, as news of certain teams’ draft strategies are leaked in the media, those outside the private meetings of the NFL Owners can have an idea of how long the conflict might last. Those strategies could, in fact, be the indicator to let the media and public know if the owners themselves think this lockout is going to cause part or all of the 2011 season to be lost.

By Peter Christian

Since the NFL Combine and the individual “pro days” at universities around the country many teams have appeared to do an about face in their draft plans. While you could argue that the strategy changes are due to certain players having outstanding workouts (or others having disappointing showings), I think it is more likely a result of the owners and the team front offices preparing for this draft as a long term supplement rather than addressing immediate needs.

For example, the Minnesota Vikings appeared to be dead set on cashing in on the defensive end talent in the 2011 draft class. More recently it appears the Vikings are leaning more towards taking an offensive lineman to supplement their current front five which are getting a bit long in the tooth.

But the real indicator is the team with the top pick, the Carolina Panthers.

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is supposedly one of the alpha dogs of the 32 NFL owners and his team’s decision would be a big glimpse into how prolonged the owner’s envision the lockout to be. According to Evan Silva of NBC Sports, the Panthers are now targeting Marcel Dareus, Patrick Peterson or Cam Newton with the top overall pick.

If that is the case, I think it means the NFL (or at least Richardson) is prepared to give up the 2011 season.

The logic is clear. All three players undoubtedly have a ton of potential, that much is agreed upon by nearly every scout and GM. However, when it comes to Newton, those same scouts and front office folks also are quick to admit that the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner has much to learn and polish to become an NFL quarterback. If the Panthers do in fact take Newton, it means they are doing so at the cost of the rest of the team which needs help everywhere.

Sure, the Panthers were the worst offensive team in the league as well, but drafting Newton only amplifies the fact that the team is ignoring that issue. If Newton is wholly regarded as a player that isn’t ready to play right away (especially without the aid of mini-camps and a pre-season) then the Panthers wouldn’t be taking him #1 to aid their team in 2011 but would be doing so to help their team beyond 2011.

Really, if the Panthers wanted to improve their offense for this season they’d be looking to star WR AJ Green or Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert who is widely considered the more pre-ready prospect. Both those players, however, have supposedly fallen off the Panthers radar.

Taking Peterson at number one also throws up a few red flags. The Panthers weren’t great on defense either but they weren’t nearly as bad on D as they were on offense. They ranked in the middle third of the league in most team defensive statistics and have a few players in place that are among the upper echelon in the league at their position.

Selecting a CB with the top overall pick would mark the first time in NFL history that has ever happened and as good as I think that Peterson is, taking a cornerback #1 reflects that the Panthers are simply taking the most talented player rather than the player that could have the biggest impact.

A selection of Marcell Dareus with the first pick is a bit more defensible if you’re not on board with my line of thinking because of the disruptive force Dareus can be, but again a lack of offense was the reason the Panthers were awful, not because of a poor defensive line.

So if the Panthers do in fact take Cam Newton, Patrick Peterson or (to a lesser extent) Marcell Dareus what does that mean for the NFL and the lockout?


It means that Jerry Richardson believes the 2011 season will be truncated or not played altogether. It means that the Panthers think they can draft Cam Newton and then build around him (or Peterson because he’s the most skilled in the draft even though he doesn’t fill a pressing need). It means that they think they have, in effect, two drafts to improve their team into a contender.

In the event that does happen, I hope you’re prepared to live without the NFL in 2011 because for all intensive purposes it means the league is completely ready for that to happen.

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