As I recall, Barron, Fletcher Cox, Dontari Poe, Stephen Gilmore, Michael Brockers and Quinton Coples all had their backers. If I'm remembering correctly, Coples was actually a pretty popular choice here.
Looked him up. Saw him listed anywhere from 181 down to 169 (oy). Raiders receiver Seth Roberts - who is said to be drawing some interest from other teams - is 6-2, 195. Not sure either of those guys fits the Panthers mold.
And for the record, Marty Hurney has stated plainly that if they'd have had the number one pick in 2002, the Panthers would have taken David Carr over Julius Peppers. Knowing that, it's not hard to theorize that Hurney also would have taken Newton over J J Watt, even if it were known what J J was to become.
I have little doubt there are plenty of GMs who would take Watt over Newton. Watt is seen as an elite player. Newton is still seen by most as more potential than production. If you take Newton first, it's because you believe the quarterback position is more important, and a lot of GMs (including our own) do indeed hold that philosophy.