Panthers looking for an impact player at No. 1?

The Charlotte Observer is reporting that the Panthers are not sold on drafting a defensive lineman with the No. 1 pick and are thought to be seeking an impact player.

Missouri Tigers quarterback Blaine Gabbert throws the football in the first quarter against the Illinois Illini at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis on September 4, 2010. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

If the paper’s sources are right, that means Auburn’s Nick Fairley, Clemson’s Da’Quan Bowers and Alabama’s Marcell Dareus may be further down Carolina’s draft board than quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton, and possibly even LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson (regarded as the best defensive player in the draft).

At least according to the Observer’s sources, the Panthers are concerned about the health of many of the draft’s top defensive lineman. Bowers had his knee scoped and therefore didn’t work out at the combine because he wasn’t in shape following rehab, while Fairley says he’s fine now but revealed that he suffered a small shoulder separation that occurred in a November game against Georgia.

Heading into the combine, Fairley’s name was being thrown around as a possibility at No. 1, but that talk has died down considerably. I haven’t put together my third mock draft yet but if I were today, I would have either Gabbert or Newton going No. 1. I had the Panthers taking Gabbert in my first mock, but then I bought into the hype surrounding Fairley and had him going No. 1 in my second mock. Now I’m back to believing that Carolina won’t take anything but a quarterback with the first overall pick. (Of course, just because the Charlotte Observer says that the Panthers may not take a defensive lineman, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. How exhausting…)

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