Carolina coach Ron Rivera said Thursday that the Panthers have seven to 10 players targeted for the first pick of the draft and that quarterback is one of the positions that's included.
The question, of course, is whether Carolina would move to take someone like Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton or choose one of the top defensive linemen -- a Da'Quan Bowers or Nick Fairley -- instead. With Rivera a former defensive coordinator, the smart money is on defense, with Carolina waiting to choose a quarterback later or moving to sign one as a free agent.
"It's all part of the evaluating process," said Rivera, who was vague on the subject of quarterbacks. "We're going to wait and see as we go through each month."
The Panthers used their first pick last year on quarterback Jimmy Clausen, but he was underwehelming -- with three TDs, nine interceptions and a passer rating of 58.4. But that's not as much a reflection of Clausen as it was of the team, which was the league's worst.
There has been speculation over what Carolina does with disenchanted wide receiver Steve Smith, with Rivera saying he must study the situation more. But he also said, "We have to do what's best for the Carolina Panthers," and a coach I trust told me Wednesday he doesn't see how the Panthers keep Smith. Smith has hinted at wanting out of Carolina and had his house on the market last year.