The rumor mill is churning about changes for Dancing With the Stars in 2013. Ratings have been slipping and a production source recently hinted to discussions about a younger judge on the panel, with some DWTS pros rumored to be in consideration for judging spots.

Having a seasoned pro on the judges’ table sounds like a smart idea. They have ballroom dance expertise, plus practical knowledge of how DWTS works on a day-to-day basis, which would give them more empathy for the couples. They also know what kind of constructive criticism would actually help, as opposed to just providing soundbites or flashing a low score without explaining how to improve it. Besides, a fresh pair of eyes would just be welcome in general after 15 seasons of the same trio.

Derek Hough was mentioned as a possible judge, since he’s a popular pro who has already won DWTS three times and has shown interest in either moving on or just advancing beyond the role of pro. He’s an exceptionally creative choreographer whose mind would be open to the funkier stuff that is never Len Goodman’s cup of tea. He also seems like he’d be fair, and not just favor his buddies (although, he would probably be partial to whatever Mark Ballas does, since they have similar styles) and always keep in mind the celebs’ fragile egos and need to hear practical encouragement.

Maksim Chmerkovskiy would also be an exciting addition to the panel, especially if he sat with some of the same judges they have now. He and Carrie Ann Inaba have sparred before — although he and Len have sparred too. Len has challenged Derek more often, but Maks is more outspoken and he’d probably provide great natural soundbites (“sex on a stick,” “this is my show”) without even trying. He also seems like he’d be tough but fair, although it’s hard to imagine him saying anything too critical about routines by his brother, Val Chmerkovskiy, or best friend Tony Dovolani. But maybe we’d be surprised.

Who else? Louis van Amstel had been absent for a couple of seasons before All-Stars, and his blogs were always fun, candid and educational. He doesn’t seem like he’d have any problem sharing constructive criticism with any of the current pros or their partners. He’s been away from DWTS enough to have a bit more distance and he certainly has enough experience for the job.

Or what about Lacey Schwimmer? She’s another off-and-on DWTS pro, and she also has experience as a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance. She knows what it takes to put on a good show on a dance competition, and she’s also outspoken and funny. Some of the pros would probably be cautious and too afraid of stepping on someone’s toes with a tough comment, but Lacey could probably find the right balance without seeming either mean or weak. She’d also bring the youth angle, since she’s edgy and fun and would definitely bring a more modern vibe to the panel, while still being fair and constructive.  

What do you think? There are so many pro options they could choose from, including current and past pros. Cheryl Burke has mentioned wanting to take a break from DWTS and she’s already won twice, so maybe she’d be open to a judging spot. Or what about including Anna Trebunskaya, Chelsie Hightower, Corky Ballas, Dmitry Chaplin, Julianne Hough, Karina Smirnoff, Kym Johnson, Mark Ballas, Peta Murgatroyd, Tony Dovolani, Tristan MacManus, Val Chmerkovskiy or one of the pro troupe members?

Which pro do you think would make the best judge? Tell us in the comments below!

Dancing With the Stars Season 16 premieres March 18, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

Gina Carbone is a contributing writer at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @ginacarbone.

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