Andrew Luck scrambles Panthers’ draft board

Andrew Luck was widely expected to go to the Carolina Panthers as the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. Luck’s announcement today that he’s planning to return for another season at Stanford derails those plans.

So where will the Panthers turn now?

If the Panthers still want to draft a quarterback first overall, they’ll need to accept the fact that there’s not a quarterback coming out this year who’s viewed as capable of stepping in immediately and excelling in a pro-style passing game, the way Sam Bradford did in St. Louis in 2010, or the way Luck would have been expected to in Carolina in 2011.

There are still a few quarterbacks likely to go in the first round, however. Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert is probably the most NFL-ready of the bunch. When Gabbert announced that he was leaving Missouri and turning pro, he hinted that the NFL draft advisory board had given him every indication that he’d be a high pick. Gabbert isn’t on the same level as Luck, but he could merit consideration for the Panthers at No. 1 overall.

The other highly rated quarterbacks all come with big question marks. Auburn’s Cam Newton has been the best player in college football this year, but that’s been in a spread attack, not a pro-style scheme. Some NFL teams may also have concerns about Newton’s character.

Ryan Mallett, the 6-foot-7 Arkansas quarterback, has an amazing arm but looks a little klutzy and doesn’t have a lot of touch on his passes. Washington’s Jake Locker is an excellent athlete, but his accuracy is abysmal: He capped a senior season in which he completed just 55.4 percent of his passes by going 5-of-16 for 56 yards in the Huskies’ Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska.

As Darin Gantt of the Charlotte Observer pointed out, Luck’s decision might have opened the door to the Panthers taking a non-quarterback, especially since they just spent a second-round pick on Jimmy Clausen last year. Various mock drafts have shown the Panthers going for Georgia receiver A.J. Green (the most talented receiver college football has seen since Calvin Johnson was at Georgia Tech) or Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers.

Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson and Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara all may be in the mix as well.

And then there’s the option of a trade. In recent years, teams picking at the top of the draft have had a hard time finding trading partners, because who wants to move up and be forced to give an unproven rookie a $50 million guarantee? But if there’s a new collective-bargaining agreement with a sensible rookie wage scale, the Panthers might find some takers if they shop the top pick.

In any event, the Panthers had better choose wisely: They have the first pick for a reason, and that reason is that they were the worst team in the league this season. Oh, and they don’t have a second-round pick because they traded what turned out to be the 33rd pick in this year’s draft to the Patriots to acquire the 89th pick in last year’s draft. They used that pick to draft Armanti Edwards, a wide receiver who played in three games and didn’t catch a single pass as a rookie.

That trade illustrates the way good teams like the Patriots use the draft to stay good, and bad teams like the Panthers use the draft to stay bad. The Panthers have 16 weeks from today to figure out how they can use the first overall pick to break that cycle.

49 responses to “Andrew Luck scrambles Panthers’ draft board

  1. Gabbert was ahead of Luck in every department prior to this past season. Blaine was a 5 star recruit rated #1 among pro style QBs, Luck was 4 star and rated #4 among pro style QBs. From the same All American camps.

    Gabbert’s first two years in college were much more impressive than Luck’s. Blaine is a tad bigger, faster, younger, and has a much better arm. Both guys are Academic All Americans. There really isn’t much to choose between them. Every chance that Gabbert will be as good or better as a pro.

  2. i live in charlotte (not a panthers fan) and hearing some people talk about this is FUNNY. im hearing all kinds of “he isn’t coming out because he doesn’t want to play for us” and people are actually getting angry at the kid.
    i very much doubt that where he was going to end up had anything to do with it. he’s likely gonna be a top pick when he comes out so it’s not like he’s gonna end up on a good team anyway

  3. Another reason for a rookie pay scale. Can you imagine signing a $78 million with a second rate talent like Blaine Gabbert simply because the you’re stuck with the 1st pick that nobody else is going to touch? And I guarantee Gabbert’s agent is going to be pushing for a deal similar to Bradford’s, and if he doesn’t get it you’ll have a long drawn out struggle where he sits out the half the season.

  4. Gabbert will benefit from Freeman’s play at TB. Same build, I think Gabbert has a better arm but Freeman’s a little stronger. I can’t imagine him going #1 but having receiver’s like Denario Alexander and Jeremy Maclin sure helped him put up some impresive stats.

    When did Mizzou become QB University. Brad Smith plays a little QB for the Jets (a better WR obviously), Chase Daniel’s backing up Brees and now Gabbert’s likely going to be starting in 2011.

  5. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Panthers get Vince Young…..

    With their division becoming very competative they need to get a QB established as soon as posible who could match up to a level of Freeman or even surpass him to the level of Ryan and Brees to be able to contend with them for the title in the future……

    Of course the Panthers need to hire a HC 1st to see if they would even match up together!

  6. Gabbert is really going to distance himself from the rest of the quarterbacks in this draft over the next few months. He’s a nfl caliber passer who will likely be a day one starter wherever he goes. If Carolina wants a qb with the top pick (and we all know they need one), he will be going there. Mallett will probably be second, and fall somewhere in the bottom half of the first round. Locker and Newton look like second or third round talent to me.

  7. he panthers? oh no i’ll stay at school! lol just kidding he should have cme out panthers or not this may be the last year of making a lot of money as a rookie.

  8. I don’t think that the Panthers will get Vince Young since Richardson, the owner, has pretty much jettisoned the veterans out and wants the younger players.

    As a Panthers fan, I was hoping for Luck if only to get rid of Clausen. He has been horrible, but I don’t understand why anyone thought that he’d be any good.

    My hubby and I were in a sports bar for the draft and when the Panthers picked Clausen, some goob at the table next to us yelled out, “Hot damn! We’re going to the Super Bowl!!”

    Yeah, how’s that working for you, goob?

  9. I’m a Mizzou student and I had season tickets this year, so I’ve gotten a better view of Gabbert’s play than a lot of people on the national scale gave. I’m going to inspire a lot of angry “Blaine Gabbert is my school’s quarterback, therefore he’s the best quarterback to ever play the game” posts after mine from diehard Mizzou fans who allow their loyalty to completely destroy their ability to impartially assess a player.

    Gabbert has many flaws that were partially hidden by coach Gary Pinkel’s system. He has the physical ability to make great throws, but here’s the catch: he only plays well when the play is going well. When anything goes wrong, he doesn’t know what to do. In the NFL, the play almost never goes according to plan, so it’s important to have that instinctive feel for the game, which Gabbert lacks.

    Additionally, his ability to read a defense is suspect. I’d estimate that the average Mizzou fan has said “our run game is bad” at least once per game since conference play started. However, a little-known fact is that Gabbert’s decision making is the reason our run game is bad. Mizzou’s entire running offense is based on the zone read. Gabbert makes the incorrect read far more often than he makes the correct one, which leads to the ball-carrier running right into a swarm of defenders while the other option on the play has all kinds of running room. If Gabbert can’t even execute a zone read, there is no way he can read an NFL defense.

    Also, Gabbert has a strong arm, but due to awkward-looking throwing mechanics, his long passes travel slowly, giving defenders more time to get to the ball. So it would take a long time to fix his mechanics before he’s able to stretch the field. This is why, despite having possibly the best corps of WRs in the Big 12, Mizzou had to limit their offense to screens and slants for the most part.

    Because he’s a big guy whose team has had a good year, “analysts” like ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, neither of whom are actual scouts, have graded Gabbert extremely highly. However, now that the season is over, the real NFL scouts are no longer watching future opponents, and they will break down game tape and see Gabbert’s flaws that Pinkel hid so well. When this happens, unless some team with a bad scouting department (and yes, some teams do have really bad scouting departments) decides to take a chance on Gabbert, look for his draft stock to tumble. Look at Colt McCoy – as much as I hate saying anything positive about UT, McCoy’s college résumé was absolutely mind-blowing. Yet once scouts broke him down, he fell to the third round of the draft, despite being easily one of the top 5 quarterbacks in the draft.

    As far as Mizzou goes, James Franklin will have Tigers fans saying “Blaine who?” very shortly. While Gabbert is a great runner when he hits full speed, he lacks the short-space acceleration that allows quarterbacks to evade pass rushers and get running fast enough to pick up big chunks of yardage. Franklin will make their zone reads much more dangerous, taking pressure off of the passing game. Also, he has more zip on his long passes, so Pinkel will be able to expand the offense and stretch the defense more often. Although we have some good memories of Gabbert’s days at Mizzou, his entry into the NFL draft is a great thing for Mizzou’s football team.

    For more on how Gabbert held the Tigers back (specifically against Nebraska)

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand here come the angry Gabbert fans with their torches and pitchforks, ready to burn my house down for uttering blasphemy against their idol.

  10. Edit to the first paragraph:

    “I’ve gotten a better view of Gabbert’s play than a lot of people on the national scale gave” should say “people on the national scale have”. Sorry about that typo

  11. @carson

    Um, the teams with the #1 overall pick are always horrific. If he waits until next and gets picked #1 he will still go to a horrific team. Unless his plan is to stink next year and kill his stock just enough to fall to picks #21-#32 and go to a playoff team.

  12. If they get this rookie pay scale in place it’s going change how NFL teams look at the draft. It’s going to take all of the risk out of drafting high and we are going to witness a ton of draft day trades in the first round. A team like Carolina could take a flier on Gabbert if there was a rookie wage scale because they would probably be on the hook for 10-12 million instead of 50-60 million. If he doesn’t pan out it would be a manageable contract to work out.

  13. Gabbert will benefit from Freeman’s play at TB. Same build, I think Gabbert has a better arm but Freeman’s a little stronger. I can’t imagine him going #1 but having receiver’s like Denario Alexander and Jeremy Maclin sure helped him put up some impresive stats.
    But if you had to redraft 09 would Freeman be the number one pick? 25 TD -6 INT, with a QB rating of 95% as a 2nd year player.

    If he is anything like Freeman would be a great pick.

  14. wow….i am shocked that gabbert is that high….i was posting about him a few months back, and he was on nobody’s radar, and now he is #1…..hmmmm I think I will wait for the combine. I think Newton, Locker, Mallet,Gabbert, and the kid from Delaware are all about the same level.

  15. Oh dear God, can you imagine a WR asking for 1st pick money? This is another reason why they need to fix this thing.

  16. Carolina should have never gotten an expansion team in the first place…nor should have Jacksonville.

    Baltimore should have been awarded an expansion team when the drunken Irsay took the Colts to Indy way before Carolina or Jacksonville and then you would never have had the mess of the Browns moving.

    Nobody in Baltimore ever wanted Modell or the stinkin’ Browns.

  17. I stated during last year’s college season, the 2009-2010 season, that Andrew Luck was going to be the best NFL QB of everybody that was playing at that time (people were trying to decide between Bradford, Clausen, McCoy, Tebow, Locker) and everybody looked at me like I was crazy.

    I still believe what I stated over a year ago and I am very thankful, that for whatever reason it was, that Luck stayed in school and didn’t go to the Panthers. I would hate to see another great QB enter the NFC South. With Luck coming aboard a divsion with Brees, Ryan, and Freeman, the games would have been classic, but not fair for fans of those teams when other divisions boast QBs like Whitehurst, Skelton, and Troy Smith.

  18. I like Gabbert, he reminds me of a slightly less athletic Josh Freeman. Not a great supporting cast, but an excellent arm, size, and pretty good athletic ability. That being said, what separates Freeman from the other young QBs is his incredible work ethic… and that is something that can’t be learned or taught or anything else… the guy just HAS to have it… and I’m not sure about Gabbert’s work ethic.

  19. “That trade illustrates the way good teams like the Patriots use the draft to stay good, and bad teams like the Panthers use the draft to stay bad. The Panthers have 16 weeks from today to figure out how they can use the first overall pick to break that cycle.”

    wtf the patriots are only good because of tom brady. the panthers have had one less than 7 win season in the last 10 years and now they are forever bad? you got to be joking.

  20. @ danthegend…Lol on that.

    Maybe someone needs to ask the Pats draft geniuses why it took them two whole days at the 2000 draft to decide to pull the trigger on Brady.

  21. Hey ignoramus, the panthers were 12-4 two years ago and had home field advantage in the playoffs. In the last 8 years they have been in the playoffs 3 times and to the NFC championship twice. If John Kasey does not kickoff out of bounds your precious Pats have one less super bowl. They are among the league leaders in starting players they drafted. If you actually did some research you would see their downfall is linked to the hiring of Jeff Davisson as Offensive Coordinator. His passing offense is about as innovative as a pee wee league team. They also played in the best division in football this year, they probably win the AFC We probably Win the NFC West this year. So I fail to see how that qualifies the Panthers as a bad team. Mediocre maybe but not bad.

  22. “When did Mizzou become QB University. Brad Smith plays a little QB for the Jets (a better WR obviously), Chase Daniel’s backing up Brees and now Gabbert’s likely going to be starting in 2011.”

    Love the sarcasm.

  23. the panthers should consider themselves lucky that somebody stupid enough to risk $50 million for something they could do in their spare time after signing isnt going to be their long term solution…QBs need to be smart, and passing up a chance at being the #1 pick is foolishness of epic proportions

  24. @hobartbaker

    Since when does high school rankings matter when going to the NFL. There were more 3 star athletes on the freshman All-America team this year than there were 4 and 5 star athletes combined. These ranking sites don’t know s***. If they were any good at analyzing players, they would be working in a scouting department somewhere. Just like with Kiper and McShay, if they were any good they would be working for a pro team.

    Also, those who are saying this is a bad idea for Luck because he is dropping $50 million guaranteed haven’t listened to anything coming out of the NFL and NFLPA. There WILL be a rookie wage scale before they finalize a deal. Owners are sick of paying unproven players the biggest salaries, and vets are sick of these rookies coming in and getting these big dollars for what they did in college.

    That’s a pretty good and honest review of one of your own. I have watched Gabbert for the last two years, and there really isn’t anything about him that impresses me. He may have an arm, but Missouri sure didn’t show it because of all the flaws you pointed out.

  25. I think Harbaugh will take a coaching job in the NFL. If Luck forgoes being the #1 overall pick to return for his senior season under a new head coach, I can only conclude that he is not smart enough to be a QB in the NFL. Gambling $70 million on your health and success under a completely different coach when you could be left with nothing if you are wrong is just such a bad idea.

  26. He just didnt want to go o the panthers.
    Luck has told friends and team mates he wanted to go to the raiders. He is a huge Raider fan so he is hoping maybe the raiders can get him next year or from what I heard he might even pull a eli just to get to to oakland

  27. hobartbaker says:
    Jan 6, 2011 8:15 PM
    Gabbert was ahead of Luck in every department prior to this past season. Blaine was a 5 star recruit rated #1 among pro style QBs, Luck was 4 star and rated #4 among pro style QBs. From the same All American camps.

    Gabbert’s first two years in college were much more impressive than Luck’s.

    Luck was a Heisman finalist in his 2nd year (he is a redshirt Soph) AND would be the clear cut #1 pick if he had decided to come out.

    Gabbert is a nice QB prospect but is not at Luck’s level right now, I don’t care what they were coming out of High School. Luck has benefitted from NFL caliber coaching and playing in a Pro Style system while Gabbert is playing in a Spread.

    Really, I wish some of you would read what you write before you post it.

  28. Jbaxt,
    Gabbert never threw to Maclin…J-Mac left early when Chase graduated.

    Pinkel’s strength is QB development…look at the guys he coached when he was a QB coach.

    Looking forward to a more balanced offense…the ofense was at its best when running out of the pistol enough to keep defenses honest and when checking out of pass plays when defenses dropped into coverage prematurely (see the Cotton Bowl vs Arkansas when Mizzou’s otherwise average college RB set a record for rushing yards). Mizzou’s 3 RBs averaged 6 ypc in the Insight loss but Yost (and Gabbert?) forgot about the running game when playing with a lead against a dead-tired defense. If it’s the QB’s responsibility to check/read run plays, it is the staff’s responsibility to remind him to do so when the situation dictates. Also, Mizzou will not be able to recruit a stud RB when only running read plays while dividing 10-18 running plays between 3 guys. Mizzou has its O-line returning next year, and all 3 RBs, so look to run it with a dual threat QB, while making big plays downfield to Jackson, Kemp (when he doesn’t drop it). Also have Egnew working the middle and Moe for catch/run, and a few young WRs to develop.

    Like any young QB with a big arm, Gabbert will have a chance if surrounded by a decent O-line and running game. He does struggle when pressured, but he has never stopped making plays even when having a tough game. Carolina needs their O-line to get healthy and back to ’08 form, or nothing else matters. A legit WR to play with an aging stud (Smith) would obviously help. 7 of the top 10 teams in the draft order will probably be looking QB, but there is always trade movement, anyway. It’s also the riskiest pick for any GM and, thus, often avoided. That’s why it’s so easy to be McKiper…watch their favorite agents’ clients shoot up their “draft boards” in the weeks preceding the real draft.

  29. It’s not that bad for Carolina. The owner is orchestrating a lock out while his team has the number 1 pick. No football next season and you have back to back number 1 picks. Luck can stay another season. He’ll just be picked next year by the Panthers.

  30. nfl4ever……….I read what I wrote. Luck’s first year IN COLLEGE was redshirted. He played on the scout team or whatever. Gabbert got into a few games behind Daniels and did pretty well. In their second year IN COLLEGE Gabbert threw for about twice as many yards and TDs and had a higher completion %. This past season was each player’s third year IN COLLEGE.

  31. Sure Gabbert looks good physically. He puts up great numbers against bad teams, but I’m not sure he’s top 5 draft material. He sure seemed to make alot of bad throws when the pressure was on, and yes I am a mizzou fan who wishes he would stay another year. I think the panthers would do better drafting defense and Oline and looking for a veteran qb and giving there young ones another chance.

  32. carson9 says: Jan 6, 2011 8:21 PM

    Luck made the right move, by avoiding the Panthers who are horrific right now.

    What a moronic statement. The team with the #1 overall pick is always bad. Do you think the worst team in the league next year is going to be much better than the Panthers this year? Luck is going #1 overall to a very bad football team whenever he comes out. This year, next year, in 2 years.

    You must be a Bengals fan, only they are stupid enough to make a post like this!

  33. @danthelegend

    Stating that NE has better drafts than Carolina is about the biggest understatement I’ve ever heard. If you think a team only needs a good QB to have the success they’ve had in the past 10 years, you might be worthy of the distinction of being the most ignorant PFT commenter.

  34. Where is the 70 million dollars number coming from? There currently is no CBA and all sides seem to agree there must be a rookie salary cap of some sort. No way that much money will be thrown around any more.

    The man has been saying all along he is NOT coming out and will finish school. He said before his outstanding year, he said during his outstanding year, hew said after his outstanding year, and people are still surprised.

  35. Gabbert has horrible feet which is why he struggles with pressure. He looks like he’s standing in quicksand when he’s in the pocket. And as far as the conversation regarding nfl ready quarterbacks goes, I’m always surprised Andy Dalton isn’t included. That dude has all the tools. Someone’s gonna get a steal in the later rounds.

  36. lesson to the Panthers…. it doesn’t pay to deliberately suck now you’re sh!t out of Luck

  37. @coachstram

    Was Oklahoma a “big game” in your book? He went for 308 and a TD with 0 turnovers. Not an amazing collegiate stat line, but they moved the ball up and down the field, and QBs are supposed to win games, first and foremost.

    It’s easy to call any draft prospect a bust, since you will be blindly right approximately 60% of the time, and an even higher percentage of 1st round QBs don’t meet expectations. The guy has the physical tools and the toughness…ask Ndamakong Suh, who said he was the best QB that he played against before entering the draft, and Gabbert played that game on an acute high ankle sprain in 4 inches of rain. See who drafts him, see if it is a situation in which anybody else could succeed, and measure from there. Leinart (who wasn’t the 1st QB in his draft) is a true bust, as an example, because he had time to learn behind a veteran, had an O-line, had dominating WRs, veteran RBs, and was given every chance to win that job but failed at every turn. You get the occasional HOFer like Aikman and Manning, who can survive the 1st 2 years on crap teams before resurrecting them (and happened to have great coaches and personnel people who constructed their teams), and they are the guys against whom every other 1st round QB is compared. Most QBs will obviously fall somewhere between the HOF and…Matt Leinart. Whoever goes as the 1st QB in the draft will likely be way better off, if he is not the 1st overall pick.

  38. layinlow says:

    If they get this rookie pay scale in place it’s going change how NFL teams look at the draft. It’s going to take all of the risk out of drafting high


    Who told you this, the draft fairy? The teams that got these high choices earned them the old fashioned way: they sucked. They usually drafted badly, their scouting department was either non-existent or a joke and some made choices based on signability. In truth, this is actually bad for the NFL because the teams that know how to draft will start throwing around picks to these guys and they’ll take them and instead of drafting one bad player, they’ll draft two or three while the good teams will get even better players. The NBA has a rookie pay scale and guess what, the same teams are drafting from the bottom of the pool year after year and the only thing that hides that fact is that the lottery scrambles the order and some teams trade their choices so you don’t see that they’re actually still drafting high, despite the fact that they’re one of the worst teams in the league because a better team has their choice.

  39. waccoforflacco: Carolina should have never gotten an expansion team in the first place…..

    They almost defeated the Patriots in one of the best Super Bowl games ever played. Take away John Kasay’s bad performance that night, and you’d be saying that a Super Bowl-winning team shouldn’t be in the league…..really?

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