Jimmy Clausen showed some smoke in 2010 but was it enough to block the team from drafting a QB in 2011?

At the beginning of 2011 it was a near guarantee that the Carolina Panthers would either select (or trade) Andrew Luck with the first pick in the draft. Many scouts believe that Luck is the best prospect to come around in a long time and it was at that time a near lock to have him go first. But in the wake of Luck going back to school for another year it is becoming very clear that the Panthers are going to have to choose a player with the first pick that might not be the "best pick."

Most believe that the 1st pick will either now go to AJ Green, Da'Quan Bowers, Nick Fairley, Robert Quinn, Patrick Peterson, or another QB (Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton) which is a pretty good list of guys for a top-5. But the kicker is that their coach options right now look to be between:

Greg Manusky: Defensive Coordinator for San Fransisco 49ers
Rob Ryan: Defensive Coordinator for the Cleveland Browns
Perry Fewell: Defensive Coordinator for the New York Giants
Ron Rivera: Defensive Coordinator for the San Diego Chargers

Most will notice that they are looking strongly for a candidate that is a defensive mind, but the very bright will realize that the 49ers, Browns, and Chargers all run 3-4 defenses which means there is about a 3/4 chance that the Panthers will be moving to the 3-4 defense this offseason. That move would mean a few key things in the process. It means that the team is starting fresh which means that they would be ok letting the Jimmy Clausen experiment end. I am not a giant fan of this but there is no doubt in my mind that a team switching defenses cannot expect to compete for 2 seasons.

It also means that certain players will not be considered like they would have in a 4-3. Nick Fairley already was at a low shot for the pick because he plays a non-priority position despite him being very good. In a 3-4 Fairley would be an even worse 1st overall pick because of his play assignment. Da'Quan Bowers could be taken here but he isn't that great of a prospect as a 3-4 LB and it just seems unlikely. Patrick Peterson's stock wouldn't change much but a CB going first overall seems completely unlikely. I also don't like Robert Quinn there because while he was a great talent he took a year off for disciplinary issues and a team cannot draft a major question like Quinn. Some will point to his skills and his year off as ok, but Dez Bryant fell for a much lessor crime last year.

With that theory I would almost have to say that defensive prospect is not likely going to be the pick in the 2011 draft because the new scheme would de-value the upfront prospects. AJ Green could go here and is the most mocked choice because he is the best player and a pick of need, but statistically a QB gets taken here so much more often than a receiver to think of it as 'the' choice.

That is why I completely believe that should a 3-4 coach be hired for the position the team will take a QB with their first overall pick. It would likely come down to Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert with the pick. I think Newton has enough hype right now, has the biggest bowl game to showcase his talent, and the most potential of any draft pick this year. That is why I have mocked Newton 1st since the start (it helps now that Luck is going back) and that is why I will mock him there (barring a very bad consequence) for a while.