NFL Draft: Who Will Go Number One?
Having the number one selection in the 2011 NFL Draft on April 28, the Carolina Panthers are saddled with a blessing and a curse. Of course, they are provided this dubious honor thanks to their league-worst record last year and, while they are clearly in need of first crack at the fresh crop of talent, as always, no pick will be more scrutinized and dissected than theirs.
Similarly, the double-edged sword principle applies to whichever young man will be selected. Along with the perfunctory monster contract and almost immediate superstar status comes the somewhat irrational expectation that he will singlehandedly turn the struggling Panthers around. If assembling a winning franchise were to be compared to constructing a house, the most any general manager can hope for from a number one is a valuable piece of the foundation to build around.
With the advantage of hindsight, the potential pitfalls become more apparent. For every Eli Manning leading his (eventual) team to a Super Bowl victory, there is a floundering Alex Smith, never quite able to make that leap to the next level. And yet these two examples support the natural temptation for any team stuck in the basement to covet the draft’s best quarterback, as there is no bigger impact position.
A look at the NFL’s last ten drafts shows that eight of the first overall picks were used on a promising pivot. The results were mixed enough that it is hard not to praise the two teams that chose to avoid the inherent risk- Houston’s selection of Mario Williams in 2006, a defensive end; and Miami’s choice of offensive tackle Jake Long in 2008. While both of these aberrations would go on to become Pro-Bowlers, only three of the eight quarterbacks, including Manning, would claim the same distinction. One of the other two, however, served twenty-one months in Leavenworth Prison on dog fighting charges, and the last bore the heavy burden of being Carson Palmer.Continued on the next page