The Carolina Panthers are on the clock.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Carolina has a pool of prospects under considerationf or the No. 1 overall pick. He said roughly seven prospects and as many as 10 could be in play and the team is considering "all positions."
However, Rivera said the team philosophy is that they need to identify a franchise quarterback who can lead the Panthers for the next "six, seven, eight years." According to the first-year coach, the first step is an ongoing evaluation of the options on the current roster: 2010 second-round pick Jimmy Clausen, clearly, is the only player the team would consider a contender for the job. Tony Pike, a rookie last season, isn't ready for NFL action and Matt Moore, who opened the '10 season as the team's starting quarterback, is a free agent.
Cam Newton (Auburn) and Blaine Gabbert (Missouri) are the only worthy candidates if the Panthers spend the top pick on a quarterback. The Panthers dealt their second-round pick to the Patriots during last year's draft for project WR Armanti Edwards.
The options for Carolina in free agency and via trade could be plentiful -- including Kevin Kolb (Eagles), Kyle Orton (Broncos) on the trade market and free agents such as 49ers' former No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith. Smith's candidacy would seem to be marginal at best -- he was 9 of 19 against the Panthers in a 23-20 Week 7 loss and 19 of 29 against Rivera's Chargers' defense in a Week 15 loss. Stopgap options Matt Hasselbeck (Seahawks, unrestricted free agent), Vince Young (Titans, likely to be released) and Tarvaris Jackson (Vikings, unrestricted) could be added if the Panthers draft a quarterback at No. 1 overall.