NoontimeSports.com’s Dan Rubin caught up with Aaron Burns, the assistant Sports Editor of the Charlotte Weekly in Charlotte, NC. Here’s what they discussed in regards to the NFL Draft, Carolina Panthers and what moves we could see this weekend.
Dan Rubin: Let’s start with the obvious, the Carolina Panthers are picking #1 overall this year in the NFL Draft? If you’re in charge, who are you picking and why?
Aaron Burns: Obviously (Cam) Newton [because he is the] best player on the board [and the] biggest need.
DR: Now you’ve had the chance to cover Newton and follow his career from Auburn to the path to the NFL… what is it about him as a player that makes him so different, and so intriguing, as a talent, from the others?
AB: I’m not sure if there’s been a quarterback in the NFL with the skill set Newton has. He has the vision, as a runner, that’s similar to Michael Vick, but his game most resembles (Ben) Roethlisberger. On a team who needs a guy with a big arm and some mobility in the pocket, Newton has to be the guy. And as a person, he gets a bad rap. Is he perfect? No, but he is charismatic, and brings a “win at all cost” mindset to the QB position that frankly would be a breath of fresh air for Carolina.
DR: Let’s say the Panthers don’t take Newton. Who else would they be thinking would be a good pick in the top slot, or do you see them trading out of the #1 pick?
AB: Obviously there is a glaring need at more than one position when you’re [2-14]. Defensive tackle and wide receiver are the biggest other than quarter [position], but you can win titles with decent defensive tackles. (The Panthers do have one defensive tackle, Nick Hayden) and (two wide receivers, Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell). Marcel Dareus is the likely pick aside from Newton, but the shocker would be A.J. Green. It’ll be one of the three and if I’m them, I’m not trading. I’m keeping it and getting the best fit for my team and moving on.
DR: We hear a lot about “can’t-miss prospects” and who has the potential to be a big bust. After Newton, whom are you seeing as the best talents in the first round and who are you seeing as players that a team will regret taking?
AB: As high as I am on Newton I see A.J. Green being the draft’s best player long-term. He has such a combination of explosive speed off the line and soft hands that he can make quarterbacks look better than they are. I think Nick Fairley and Dareus will be solid defensive tackles. As far as busts, Patrick Peterson and Von Miller make me a bit nervous. Cornerback or punt return guys are never worth a top 5 pick and hybrid end/linebacker guys are boom or bust, and most of the time, they’re bust. Remember Aundray Bruce (Auburn guy)? [Number one] overall by [the Atlanta Falcons] in ’88. A Von Miller type. Great value at 12th, not 3rd.
DR: Who’s going to move up the draft board and choose a “shock pick” and who’s going to slide down?
AB: Blaine Gabbert will go higher than he should by about 10-15 picks. Fairley is poised to tumble a bit and make teams regret it later.
DR: After the first round, who are some of the mid round talent that you see winding up in Panthers roster?
AB: Can I say, Lee Ziemba (Auburn/offensive tackle)? I won’t, but he fills a need. Look for defensive tackles and cornerbacks to be addressed with the Panthers’ two third-round picks. A late-round receiver always comes to Charlotte, that’ll happen again this year. Maybe a small-school guy.
DR: Let’s switch gears and look at New England. This is a team that didn’t have a lot of holes last year, but did lose to the New York Jets during the AFC Divisional round of the 2010 playoffs. When you think of the Patriots from an outsider’s perspective, what are you thinking about in this draft?
AB: I’m thinking wow; I’ve got a lot of ammunition. [The] Pats need to come away with Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, [who would be] a perfect pick for [New England]. He could struggle due to knee issues or he could show out and be an All-Pro. I think it’s more likely that he’ll stand out. Also, hate to say it…spend a pick on a quarterback. [Tom Brady] won’t last forever. His hair, on the other hand…
DR: Do you think anybody’s going to move players for picks, like in the Randy Moss trade that occurred prior to the ’07 season? I heard Chad Ochocinco has been rumored to move to another team.
AB: Not sure what I’d give for Chad [because the] Bengals aren’t very smart with trades, but his teammate Carson Palmer could be shipped off.
DR: Final question – if the Panthers take Newton, how soon before you order his jersey from NFLShop.com?
AB: Haven’t bought a jersey from NFLShop.com since 2005 when I bought a Jake Delhomme Panthers jersey and it was stolen out of the box. They had to send another. Ordered it in Week 15. Got there the week of the Divisional Playoffs, which was a 29-21 win at Chicago, if you’re scoring at home.