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The Carolina Panthers are on the clock, will Andrew Luck be there?

Andrew Luck

Heisman candidate Andrew Luck, quarterback for Stanford, speaks to reporters during a news conference on Friday, Dec. 10, 2010, in New York. (AP Photo/Andrew Burton)


The Carolina Panthers are on the clock, and speculation can begin about who they’ll choose with the first pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

Today’s wins by the Broncos and Bengals ensure that the Panthers will have the worst record in the league this year, and the first overall pick that goes with it. Most league observers believe the Panthers covet Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with that pick.

But it’s no sure thing, just as five years ago it was no sure thing that the Texans would select USC running back Reggie Bush with the first overall pick, despite reports that the Texans had made up their mind to take Bush.

For starters, the Panthers don’t even know who their coach will be in 2011, so it’s premature to talk about what kind of quarterback would be the right fit for that coach’s offense. Luck appears to be a good fit for just about any NFL offense, but perhaps the Panthers’ coach won’t feel that way.

There’s also the question of whether Luck will even declare for the NFL draft. Peter King reported on Football Night in America that Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh does not believe Luck is turning pro. Harbaugh says academics are important to Luck, and the current plan is for him to stay in school.

So while Luck looks like the Panthers’ franchise quarterback, he may still surprise most of us and return to Stanford. And even if he does enter the draft, he might no longer be the consensus No. 1 pick in late April that he is now. A lot can happen in four months.

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