Its not a good draft for a team in need of a franchise quarterback or running back.
Fortunately for the Carolina Panthers, theyre set in both areas.
With $43.5 million in guaranteed money tied up in running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, along with quarterback Cam Newton entering his third season with Derek Anderson as his backup, the Panthers likely wont be in the market for either position in this weeks draft.
Newtons stance as the starter is unchallenged after winning the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2011 and posting similar numbers last season. In the past two years, he has evolved into a quarterback with greater pocket presence despite an offensive scheme that frequently had him outside the pocket.
The Panthers, under former offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, relied heavily on zone-read packages that utilized Newtons size and quickness. But neither Anderson nor third-string quarterback Jimmy Clausen have Newtons unique skill set.
Across the NFL, from Washington to Seattle to Philadelphia and San Francisco, teams that have dual-threat quarterbacks starting have more traditional pocket passers as backups.
The quarterback position has always been a difficult one to figure out, said Steve Clarkson, a quarterback guru who has trained several big names. For years the standard bearer has been the pocket passer and someone who can make plays with his arm, and certainly to a large degree thats going to be the case. A Cam Newton, a Russell Wilson, those guys are not very easy to find.
The Panthers had interest in drafting Wilson last year and wanted to take him before Seattle selected him in the third round.
A glance at Andersons career statistics would seemingly eliminate any zone-read packages for him. In seven years, hes gained 203 yards on 78 attempts.
But Panthers coach Ron Rivera pointed out Andersons ability to sustain a drive citing when Newton went out for a series with an injury against New Orleans in Week 17 last year as proof he can do what the Panthers need him to.
The thing about Derek is Dereks a very smart and cerebral player, Rivera said last month at the owners meeting. Derek doesnt need to get a lot of reps. He has a tremendous amount of athletic (ability). Hes faster than we thought he was.
Only once in their 18-year history have the Panthers drafted a quarterback who was almost assured to be a backup (Stefan LeFors in 2005). And re-signing Anderson this offseason after he flirted with Cleveland signaled it unnecessary to look for one this week.
Fortunately for us we were able to keep him, Rivera said. Hes been a very good part for us in terms of our team, leadership role for us and a mentoring role as well, being with Cam and Jimmy Clausen.
As far as the running backs in this years draft, Alabamas Eddie Lacy could be taken on Day One while North Carolinas Giovani Bernard could go anywhere between rounds 1-3.
But no matter Carolinas position in not needing a running back to come in and start immediately, the Panthers like all other teams could still find a later-round gem.
I can guarantee you theres going to be some fifth, sixth, seventh (round) backs and some undrafted free-agent backs that make a team and contribute, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said in a teleconference on April 10. Happens every year.
Observer's top QBs in the 2013 NFL draft
Ranking and analysis of the drafts top quarterbacks:
* Rd. is projected round taken
|1. Geno Smith||West Virginia||6-3, 218||1||Play-making QB who clocked group's fastest 40 time|
|2. Matt Barkley||USC||6-2, 227||1||Shoulder injury ended 2012 season early|
|3. Ryan Nassib||Syracuse||6-2, 227||1||Measurables underwhelmed but he's accurate|
|4. Tyler Wilson||Arkansas||6-2, 215||2||Arm strength a concern with the ex-Razorback|
|5. EJ Manuel||FSU||6-5, 237||2||One of the top dual-threat QBs in this class|
|6. Mike Glennon||N.C. State||6-7, 225||2-3||Strong arm; college coach has QB tutor pedigree|
|7. Tyler Bray||Tennessee||6-6, 232||3||Can throw the ball a mile but questions with maturity|
|8. Zac Dysert||Miami (Ohio)||6-3, 231||3||Overtook Ben Roethlisberger as Miami's top career passer|
|9. Landry Jones||Oklahoma||6-4, 225||3-4||Some have Sam Bradford's ex-backup gone on Day One|
|10. Matt Scott||Arizona||6-2, 213||3-4||Size an issue; just one full season as 'Cats QB|
Panthers perspective: Carolina has its franchise quarterback in Cam Newton, and certainly no one in this draft will change that. The Panthers have re-signed backup Derek Anderson after he's played sparingly the past two seasons, and they still have 2010 starter Jimmy Clausen on the roster.
Local connections: Glennon spent the past two seasons as the Wolfpack starter after two years as the backup to Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. Under coach Tom O'Brien, Glennon passed for 4,031 yards and 31 touchdowns this past season with a 58.5 completion percentage. His height and arm strength can't be taught.
Sleeper: Manuel could be a steal if he falls. His measurables are undeniable, and he's one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in this draft entering a league that saw great success with those athletes. Even if he's not an immediate starter, he would be crucial for teams who see zone-read often to bring him on to use at practices.
Worth noting: West Virginia Wesleyan quarterback Nate Montana was invited to participate in the San Francisco 49ers' pro day last week. Montana is the son of Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, who led the 49ers to four Super Bowl titles and was named MVP of three.
- Jonathan Jones
Observers top running backs in the 2013 NFL draftRanking and analysis of the drafts top running backs:
|1. Eddie Lacy||Alabama||5-11, 231||1||Showcased speed and power in BCS title game|
|2. Montee Ball||Wisconsin||5-10, 214||1-2||Was Heisman finalist; NCAA leader in total TDs|
|3. Giovani Bernard||N. Carolina||5-8, 202||1-2||Do-it-all back has had a history of injuries|
|4. Johnathan Franklin||UCLA||5-10, 205||2||Great in open field, but his burst could be better|
|5. Andre Ellington||Clemson||5-9, 199||2-3||Excellent senior year averaging 5.1 yards per carry|
|6. Stepfan Taylor||Stanford||5-9, 214||3||A workhorse who can catch balls out of backfield|
|7. LeVeon Bell||Mich. State||6-1, 230||3||Averaged 4.7 yards, 29 carries per game for MSU|
|8. Christine Michael||Texas A&M||5-10, 220||3-4||Numbers dipped with Johnny Manziel at QB|
|9. Marcus Lattimore||S. Carolina||5-11, 221||4-5||Before injury, he was a Heisman candidate|
|10. Joseph Randle||Okla. State||6-0, 204||4-5||1,417 rushing yards, 14 TDs for Cowboys|
Panthers perspective: Not only are the Panthers set in the backfield but also in the return game. Backup running back Armond Smith saw time at kick return, and with the addition of Ted Ginn Jr. in the offseason, the Panthers dont need a backup running back to be the versatile player most teams use.
Local connections: Both Ellington and Lattimore are from South Carolina. Ellington rushed for 1,822 yards as a senior for Berkeley High (Moncks Corner) before going to Clemson. Lattimore, the former Mr. Football of South Carolina, set records at Byrnes (Duncan) before going to play for Steve Spurrier.
Sleeper: Floridas Mike Gillislee could be a guy picked up in a mid-to-late round and be a stud for a team. He excelled in his senior year with 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns. Gillislees elusiveness would create problems on the next level if he can hit the holes harder than he did in the SEC.
Worth noting: Lacy is considered the top prospect in this years draft, but it doesnt seem like a guarantee hell be scooped up on the first night. If thats the case, it will be the first time since 1963 a running back was not selected in the first round of the draft. Also, since 2007, five Alabama running backs have been taken in the draft.
- Jonathan Jones
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