Patrick Peterson should go No. 1

Patrick Peterson is regarded by some draft gurus as the best player in this year's pool of players. Brian Spurlock/US Presswire

To take or not to take Patrick Peterson with the No. 1 pick? That is the Shakespearian question the Carolina Panthers are wrestling with heading into the 2011 NFL draft.

The reasons not to draft Peterson seem quite compelling. Blaine Gabbert is widely considered to be an elite passing prospect and Cam Newton has a rare set of physical skills. If either of those two is as good as advertised, it could mean a long-range upgrade for a passing offense that ranked dead last in the league in yards per attempt (YPA) last season.

In addition, Carolina's pass defense had some fairly solid statistics in 2010, ranking tied for 16th in pass YPA allowed and tied for 11th in interceptions.

This doesn't seem to bode well for Peterson as a player capable of having the same kind of impact that Gabbert or Newton might, but an in-depth look at the numbers illustrates how he can do as much to improve the club as either of those two -- particularly early on.

Let's start by taking a look at what kind of short-term statistical improvement the Panthers could expect from the quarterbacks in a best-case scenario. And this assumes a lofty goal -- that they'd mimic last year's rookie sensation Sam Bradford and start every game.