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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Jimmy Clausen, Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert

Whenever you consider looking too closely at the 2011 NFL Mock Draft updates we've been writing about for months now, remember that just before the 2010 NFL Draft there remained a large contingent of analysts, including Mel Kiper, who were in love with Jimmy Clausen. Sam Bradford? A risk. Clausen? NFL ready. After a momentary lull when Andrew Luck announced his intent to return to school, his year's mock drafts have begun, once more, suggesting that the Carolina Panthers will and should select another quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick, be it Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert. 

Clausen was, admittedly, about as bad as a quarterback can get in 2010. He averaged 5.2 yards an attempt—only mediocre, which was a positive considering his awful completion percentage—and compounded that problem by throwing nine interceptions against just three touchdowns. Worse yet, there's no point in his season where you can say he was beginning to figure it out. There were flashes of adequacy—his 13-for-19 performance with 141 yards and a touchdown in the Panthers' win over fellow doormats the Arizona Cardinals among them—but they weren't really strung together. His last five games by adjusted yards per attempt: 4.97; 4.46; 8.47; 1.17; 4.76. 

But the Panthers were awful as a unit last season; Matt Moore was even less successful in his five games in the starting role. It's always tempting to select a quarterback in the first round—they're the most important player on the field in today's game, and a guy like Cam Newton would create unparalleled fanbase excitement. But the Panthers have a lot of problems, and it might make sense, with Gabbert and Newton exciting but no more sure things than Clausen was, to try to address another, in the hopes that Clausen shows a little of the competence that led them to choose him less than a year ago as their franchise quarterback.