Questions remain the same for Panthers

This much, we know, is true: Over the next seven weeks, the debate over who the Panthers will take with the No. 1 overall pick in a draft with no clear-cut top choice will continue to rage. Rely on that.

Using that as our jumping off point, our resident GM at NFL Network, Michael Lombardi, insists the Panthers have to take a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick.

“The only way the Panthers are going are ever going to turn their franchise around … they can kid themselves with all this, ‘well, we have Jimmy Clausen.'” Lombardi said. “Did you see numbers up on the board? That wasn’t impressive either. They better set the tone of their franchise and get a quarterback. Blaine Gabbert brings all the credentials to the table.

“If (they) believe in Gabbert, then all the other holes, you have to make it work.”

Therein lies the heart of the decision for the Panthers: Has their evaluation determined the team can’t win with Clausen? If so, do they believe that Gabbert — or Cam Newton for that matter — is a true franchise quarterback?

If the answers to those questions are yes, the thinking is the Panthers can’t afford to pass up the opportunity to take the quarterback who can lead their franchise. Those pivotal questions haven’t, and won’t, change during the draft process. The Panthers believe in the need for a franchise quarterback, but if they’re not convinced Gabbert or Newton is that player, it opens the window for Carolina DE Robert Quinn, Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers, Auburn DT Nick Fairley and Alabama DT Marcell Dareus to get right back into the mix.

Panthers fans, back to you … which direction would you like to see the franchise go with the No. 1 overall pick?

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