Ron Rivera Gives Few Clues as to Which Direction Carolina Will Go in the NFL Draft

April 11, 2011 – 8:00 am by Eric Schmoldt

Very little seems certain about the NFL these days, and that includes the league’s draft. Just a few weeks away, exactly what direction teams will go seems more unpredictable than ever thanks to the lockout, which has kept teams from signing free agents.

At this point, even the top pick is up for plenty of discussion. The Carolina Panthers and new head coach Ron Rivera own the pick, but where will they go with it? The best prospects seem to be on the defensive side of the ball in tackle Marcell Dareus and cornerback Patrick Peterson, but do the Panthers need to go out and get a quarterback.

Auburn’s Cam Newton and Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert are, by all accounts, the top quarterbacks out there, but are they worth the number one overall pick? I guess we’ll have to wait and see, as Rivera doesn’t seem to give any inclination about the team’s direction in the following interview.

Ron Rivera joined WFNZ in Charlotte with the Mac Attack to discuss whether there are quarterbacks worthy of the top overall pick, how the lack of free agency affects decisions, the vagaries of specific workouts, if the team should use the pick to bolster its defense and where Jimmy Clausen fits into his plans.

Are there quarterbacks that are worth picking at No. 1?:

“I think the thing that people have got to understand is it comes down to what your primary need is. If that’s your biggest need, your primary need, then you’ve got to take it. That’s what we’re doing the next two and a half weeks, we’re going through the rest of this process. … We have to go through this entire process. We can’t just sit there and say today we need a quarterback.”

How does the lack of free agency before the draft affect draft day?:

“It changes a lot of mindsets, not just ours but everyone else in the league. What you like to do is you like to fill those needs immediately and fill them to say that we’ve got a veteran guy. … We’ve got to really look at what could happen. Let’s say we take this position, that also signals to a lot of people what our intentions will probably be during free agency.”

Who has impressed him the most in workouts?:

“The workouts we’ve seen have all been solid. There have been a lot of guys that have caught our eye. … We’ve identified at least eight guys … and as we go through the rest of this process, the next two and a half weeks, we’ll be able to determine who we feel will be the guy that fills that need.”

On the opportunity to bolster the defense:

“I will say this, if you evaluate what happened with this team last year, look at what they did defensively. There are a lot of positives. … As you evaluate this, you’ve also got to say, ‘If we take this guy in the first round, what’s going to be later on in the draft?’ You’ve got to see how that’s going to impact the rest of the draft.”

Where does Jimmy Clausen fit into the picture?:

“I can’t necessarily talk about anybody that’s a free agent, so the only one I can address is Jimmy. There’s a lot of positives with Jimmy, too. … There was an evaluation process he went through last year. I went through, talked to a number of coaches in this league at the combine and at these scouting trips, just to visit with them and ask them specific questions about him. The thing that kept coming back is a lot of people had him rated pretty solid last year.”

Listen to Ron Rivera on WFNZ in Charlotte here

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