The official GLS mock draft will hit newsstands (or more specifically, this blog) tomorrow morning. And it’s beginning to look like we won’t have to sweat over the first selection.

That’s because, according to Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer, the Panthers are pretty much determined to use the No. 1 overall pick on Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.

That’s been a popular rumour for some time, but Sorensen seems pretty sure that the Panthers plan to — “or are working hard to convince the football world they plan to” — take the Heisman winner with the top pick.

I was at Newton’s Pro Day at Auburn last week, and the Panthers sent six representatives. The Panthers will return to Auburn for a private workout with Newton today. One group of Panthers was scheduled to have dinner with Newton and his family Tuesday, and another group is scheduled to have dinner with him tonight.

In my opinion, taking Newton is a tremendous risk for a team that has holes at several important positions. This draft is filled with exceptional pass rushers, and the Panthers are in need of a quality defensive end to replace Julius Peppers. It would make a lot more sense for them to trade down, collect some extra picks, take an end midway through Round 1 and take their chances with Jimmy Clausen in 2011.

Don’t forget that Clausen was drafted in the second round only one year ago. He was awful as a rookie, but the sample size wasn’t large and it’s not like the former Notre Dame star was getting a lot of support from the slew of injury replacements that surrounded him.

If things don’t work out, there’s always Andrew Luck next year.

What’s more, this draft is filled with quarterbacks that could be good, could be bad. I don’t view Newton much differently. The Panthers could use a second-round pick on a guy like Ryan Mallett, who is more of a prototypical pocket passer and, unlike Newton, has played in a pro-style offence.

So while I buy that the Panthers are showing strong interest in the compelling Newton, I find it hard to believe they’ve settled on such a wild card this early.

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