I say this first because it seems the least likely. Owner Jerry Richardson has stated the team won't be trading the pick, but that was before Luck returned to Stanford. Still, if the Panthers don't see a must-have player at the top of the board, why would anyone else feel differently?
Richardson has said he wants the Panthers to emulate the Pittsburgh Steelers way. Perhaps he should also start thinking, "What would Bill Belichick do?"
By they way, Belichick would have traded Steve Smith for picks last year, while his value was higher. The Panthers will definitely look into it this year and should also consider re-signing DeAngelo Williams and trading Jonathan Stewart for an extra pick or two. But that discussion is for another day.
Option Two: DE Da'Quan Bowers
This would probably be the least sexy selection the Panthers could make. The nation's sack leader appears to have the talent to make a difference in the NFL, but that has been said many times about ends who turned out to be busts (See Brown, Courtney and Gholston, Vernon).
The hiring of Rivera will also impact this decision. While he doesn't bring the flash of Jim Harbaugh, the fact that he has had success coordinating 3-4 and 4-3 defenses could lead to some exotic schemes, which the Panthers will surely need to compete with the high powered offenses of their division rivals. There is no doubt that Bowers would have a place in either scheme.
Option Three: QBs Cam Newton, Ryan Mallett, Blaine Gabbert or Jake Locker
QB Cam Newton
Kevin C. Cox/Getty
Newton, the Heisman winner and national champion, has the most athletic ability and has drawn comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger . However, he's still a project; can the Panthers really afford another project at quarterback?
Mallett may be the most NFL ready and will probably go in the first round, but he's no lock either and may not be worth the money.
Gabbert and Locker -- and any other quarterback in the draft for that matter -- all have their ups and downs. Both may be available in the second round, and if the Panthers can somehow find a way to get a selection there, maybe they gamble on one of these two.
Option Four: WR A.J. Green
Selecting the wide receiver from Georgia would be a luxury pick. The Panthers are not in a position of luxury. Who would throw him the ball? This would be a galactically stupid selection.
Option Five: CB Patrick Peterson
Whether Richard Marshall returns or not, the Panthers still need help in their defensive backfield. It would be a major boost to know that there is someone back there that can cover Roddy White, Mike Williams and all of the New Orleans Saints' receivers for the foreseeable future.
DT Nick Fairley
In the Fiesta Bowl on Monday night, Fairley legitimized himself as a candidate to be selected first in the draft. He was a disruptive force and was involved in multiple plays that swung the tide in Auburn's favor.
Is he a dirty player? Absolutely. But nice guys don't succeed playing defensive tackle in the NFL. Fairley alone may help Rivera choose the 4-3 over the 3-4. His style doesn't figure to be a fit for the 3-4, but as a tackle in a 4-3, he could have a similar rookie campaign to Ndamukong Suh.
Is Suh a little dirty? Sure, ask Jake Delhomme. Is there a player on the Detroit Lions that isn't ecstatic to have Suh as a teammate? Doubtful.
Should the Panthers draft WR A.J. Green? Talk about it in the message boards.
Michael Stolp is a graduate of Wilkes University with a degree in Communications. He grew up in Piscataway, N.J., and recently relocated to Charlotte, NC. To follow his personal blog, click here.