Recently, NFL insider Adam Schefter of ESPN was asked via Twitter whether the Carolina Panthers would still take Andrew Luck first overall in the 2012 draft if they end up with the #1 pick again.
To my surprise, Schefter didn’t hesitate, when he responded, “You get 1, you take Luck. Period.” When pressed by another one of his followers who stated that you can’t take two quarterbacks first overall in back to back drafts because it’ll set the franchise back, Schefter replied, “Passing up Luck sets it back even more.”
I’m intrigued and so were a couple of my colleagues. It’s been a while since we’ve held a round table discussion, but with the subject matter piquing all of our interest, we felt this would be a great topic to collectively chime in on. I’ll be joined in this round table debate by Danny Hobrock, our college football editor and Hank Koebler, our NFL writer and my Co-Host on the NFL Red Zone Report that airs on Thursday nights at 11:30 pm EST / 10:30 pm CST.
Jayson Braddock: I agree that Andrew Luck is the first can’t-miss quarterback prospect since John Elway, who coincidentally also came out of Stanford (too soon for QB U?). In most cases, I would say that you can’t pass up on his talent. But with the Panthers using their first two picks in the last two drafts on quarterbacks, it’ll be a tough sale to take another rookie quarterback. Not to mention that they also used another selection on Tony Pike in the 2010 draft. If the Panthers had a willing trade partner for Cam Newton, I would fully agree with moving Newton for extra picks and then drafting Luck first overall. Without moving Newton, though, they would have a depth chart that looked like this: Luck, Newton, Clausen, and Pike.
Danny Hobrock: I’d have to agree with you, Jayson. Normally, if there’s a player of Luck’s caliber available, you take him unless you have a Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan etc. running your offense. We probably won’t know much about Cam Newton’s NFL ability by the end of next year and it’s almost a certainty that he won’t be on that level by next April, but choosing a franchise quarterback first overall in successive years is something that should not happen even if Luck is still more ‘NFL-ready’ than Newton next April. Ask the Detroit Lions how that worked out with their highly selected wide receivers; it kept them from building the rest of their team with marquee players. The trade scenario is only viable if he lays a giant egg in his rookie season, but if he lays an egg he’ll be tough to move. As much as I disagree with taking Newton first overall, this organization has bought into him as their future franchise player and it’s something they need to stick with for at least a couple of seasons.
Hank Koebler: I see both sides of the issue, but at the same time, I’ve got to side against drafting Luck. On one hand, Luck is clearly an incredibly special player who should dominate the NFL for years to come. However, Cam Newton is the most physically gifted quarterback to come out of college in many years. While there are certainly concerns over whether Newton has the personality to be a franchise quarterback, he’s athletically talented enough that his physical gifts should allow him to play at a reasonably high level in his rookie season. If Newton struggles, that will mean that the Panthers’ offensive line performed poorly. If that’s the case, why draft another quarterback to get killed behind the same offensive line, when you can trade down and get Newton more help?
JB: It’s a great point Danny brings up about what the Detroit Lions did with drafting wide receivers. It would be the exact same situation if the Panthers took another quarterback in 2012. Carolina has made their bed and now should lay in it for at least a few years. If Newton fails, they should go the veteran route as opposed to continually missing on rookie quarterbacks. I agree with Hank that trading down would be the best solution for the Panthers if they do find themselves in this situation. I don’t believe that the offensive line will be the biggest downfall for him this season. It will be the youth of his key pieces, especially if they can’t keep Deangelo Williams and Steve Smith. Trading next year’s #1 for veteran leaders might be the best solution. Also, bringing in a Donovan McNabb type to mentor Newton may help prevent Carolina from being the worst team again. It’s not traditional thinking but if the Panthers are tanking the season in 2011, as we all believe they will, they could trade their first round pick before the trading deadline, to a team hoping to capitalize on drafting Andrew Luck. Imagine what a team like the Raiders, Bills, Seahawks, Redskins, Cowboys, or Dolphins would give up. Cam Newton could really benefit in 2011 by being able to throw the ball to Brandon Marshall instead of 3 second year starters. The possibility of making Newton more successful in 2011 should outweigh the hope of drafting another highly touted rookie quarterback.
DH: I like the idea of trading next year’s #1, but a rebuilding team like the Panthers should trade back for more picks. Jayson mentioned some teams who could be interested in Luck and a few of them could be picking in the top ten next April. If it comes down to it and Carolina is sitting with the first pick yet again, they’d be best served to trade down a few spots with a team looking to draft Luck and pick up an offensive lineman as Hank mentioned or an offensive weapon as Jayson mentioned with a top ten pick, while also adding some more picks. We all saw how much Atlanta gave up for Julio Jones; imagine the bidding war that could commence next year if Luck is still our favorite quarterback, which I believe he will be, and the first pick is on the trading block. It’s hard to speculate as to who will be atop draft boards next year, but there are so many holes in Carolina that they need to think about filling as many of them as possible. More to the question at hand, there’s something to be said for drafting what I believe is a special kind of quarterback that doesn’t come around very often like Andrew Luck, but given that Carolina drafted Newton so highly knowing that Luck would be available next season and knowing they’d probably be picking pretty highly again (unless they’re kidding themselves), you have to believe they think highly enough of Newton to stick with him for a few years.
HK: I agree completely. You can’t commit the top pick in the draft to somebody and then draft their replacement a year later. The team has Newton, Clausen and Pike, but no veteran. Drafting Luck just adds to the logjam of young quarterbacks, and puts Luck in a situation that is not conducive to success. If after a year it looks like Newton isn’t ready to be a starter, the Panthers will need to find a veteran quarterback to keep the seat warm and mentor him. Regardless of how good Andrew Luck is, it makes no sense to draft someone if you can’t put him in a position to succeed. If the Panthers take Luck with the first pick in the 2012 draft, we’ll be here this time next year debating who they should take with the first pick of the 2013 draft.
Collectively it appears that we all believe that Andrew Luck is a franchise guy. We also believe, though, that the Panthers don’t have the luxury of drafting Luck first overall after spending the first pick on Cam Newton this year. We differ on our approach to how the Panthers should treat the first overall pick if they do finish worst. Hank and Danny seem to believe that trading back to acquire more picks is the best solution, while I believe trading the pick to acquire veteran leadership is the route they should take. Time will tell what the right solution is but regardless, one thing is for certain…the Panthers will make the wrong choice. Who knows, if they do draft Luck, maybe they can shift Newton to receiver and Clausen to towel boy.
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