With the 2011 NFL Draft less than two months away, mock drafts continue their furious publication pace. The NFL scouting combine has allowed NFL talent evaluators and fans gather their opinions on players they like, want to see more of or believe will be busts. Has any of this affected the Carolina Panthers, holders of the No. 1 pick?
According to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, the Panthers do not believe they are beholden to draft a defensive lineman with the top pick. Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley had been the usual pick at mock drafts, but his stock appears to be down slightly after the combine. If not Fairley, then who? Person offers quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and as two possibilities. And don't count out LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson. Peterson's defensive skills (and ability to play safety in certain situation) and return capabilities will bring him into the equation.
This obviously plays well for the Denver Broncos, who have the No. 2 pick. Even if the Panthers don't go with a quarterback, the mere speculation of that increases the value of the Broncos' pick. The selection could be leveraged into trading down several spots with a team who does want one of those quarterbacks to acquire more choices. But if the Broncos keep the pick and the Panthers go with either of the quarterbacks, the Broncos still have the entire field of defensive prospects from which to choose. And with Peterson it would just be minus one.
SB Nation's latest 2011 NFL mock draft has the Panthers selecting Blaine Gabbert first overall and the Broncos going with Peterson. Not bad at all for the Broncos.