Luck’s Return to School Sets Panthers Back

After a disappointing season for the Carolina Panthers, many fans were hoping the face of the franchise would come with the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

The Panthers have now fallen to 2-15 on the season.

Stanford QB Andrew Luck, considered the unanimous first pick, announced Thursday that he would return to Stanford for his senior season.  This news came as a shock, considering Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh has not announced his future plans.

After a season that Owner Jerry Richardson and the franchise was hoping to erase, the Luck decision adds insult to injury.  Luck’s future with the Panthers was suppose to be the kick-start of a new era of football in Charlotte, similar to the Falcons drafting Matt Ryan.

This is a surprise that Luck would announce his decision before Harbaugh’s announcement.  If Harbaugh was to leave for another job, it makes no sense for Luck to return one season, and potentially have to learn an entire new offense.  If Harbaugh returns, it sets Stanford as early picks to make the 2012 BCS National Championship Game.

As for what Carolina should do with the first pick, trading down to gain more picks seems like a logical action.  However, with Luck out, the pick is devalued.  There is always a team that over-pays to move up in the draft to get a great college player, who turns into a so-so NFL player.

If Carolina opts to keep its pick, look for the team to stay on the defensive side of the ball, much like their direction in the coaching search.  Look for the Panthers to closely examine Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers and Auburn DT Nick Fairley.  The team might also look at Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert and Georgia WR A.J. Green.

Unfortunately for Panthers’ fans, this means the Jimmy Clausen era will continue, at least one more year.

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