CHARLOTTE - The Carolina Panthers do not have a first-round pick in next year's draft.
But according to scouts and personnel men throughout the league, that would not keep them from drafting a "quarterback of the future" in April.
The Panthers knew they were taking a chance when they traded their 2010 first-rounder to San Francisco so they could take defensive end Everette Brown. But they might be able to get the guy they need with their second-rounder, according to a survey of college scouts and personnel men contacted by The Herald.
Several factors have combined to make 2010's draft heavy with quarterback prospects. First is the looming labor uncertainty - there is no salary cap next year and there could be a lockout in 2011 without a new collective bargaining agreement. That figures to send more juniors into this year's draft.
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Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen and Washington's Jake Locker are considered to sure first-rounders. Oklahoma's Sam Bradford is next in line, but is a question because of his shoulder problems.
Of the seniors, Texas' Colt McCoy is considered "no higher than a second(-rounder)" according to one of the scouts because of concerns about his arm strength. Cincinnati's Tony Pike and Florida's Tim Tebow are pegged in the same range or lower.
Juniors such as Mississippi's Jevan Snead, Houston's star Case Keenum and Florida State's Christian Ponder also could be available in the second to middle rounds if they come out.
Tebow is a polarizing player, as his throwing mechanics are not to NFL standards, but his leadership, character and intangibles are "off the charts," according to one scouting director.
"You'll need to teach him how to throw," one scout said. "But he should be able to figure it out."
What does that mean for the Panthers? Somebody who could help them and be good enough to play as a rookie if need be should be available.
"There might only be one or two guys who you'd say might be able to light it up right away," one of the scouts said. "But there are a lot of guys out there who figure to be good NFL quarterbacks if you can groom them."