Since the Carolina Panthers and the Jacksonville Jaguars are the two newest NFL franchises, I thought I’d take a look at the Panthers’ first-round picks, whom they selected, and whom they MIGHT have had at that draft position instead.
We all know hindsight is 20/20 and when Marty Hurney was fired as GM and David Gettleman hired, I recall having taken a quick look at Hurney’s first round picks and overall drafting.
A “whiff” on a top-round pick can set a franchise back, but in Hurney’s case, it was more of overpaying in contract extensions and not finding too many later-round “gems” that can really get a franchise on the fast track if starters and/or contributors can be found after the second or third rounds.
THAT is where a great GM really earns his keep.
What I’m going to do is list the year, the top pick, and one or more players that were still on the board whom we now know may have been a better pick with that perfect hindsight vision before the Panthers had their following choice that season….except in the case of a “home run” pick like say a Julius Peppers.
-format is Year: Round (overall pick) – name, position
-one or more players in that season’s draft that remained on the board when Carolina made their selection, then some notes.
1995: 1 (5) – Kerry Collins, QB (17 seasons, 4 with Carolina)
- Kevin Carter (6), DE; Warren Sapp (12), DT; Hugh Douglass (16), DE; Derrick Brooks (23), LB
NOTES: A New franchise is going to need a franchise QB, and Collins was the best QB both going into the draft and looking back. Not a great QB class overall, and I don’t blame the Panthers for taking Collins here despite all the sack-artists and Hall of Fame DT Warren Sapp being there.
1996: 1 (8) – Tim Biakabutuka, RB (6 seasons)
- Willie Anderson (10), OT; Eddie George (14), RB; Marvin Harrison (19), WR; Eric Moulds (24), WR; Ray Lewis (26), ILB; Mike Alstott 2 (35), FB
NOTES: Any of these picks would have been better than Tim, who wound up being a career underachiever, never playing in all 16 games and never reaching that 1,000-yard plateau with 718 yards and 6 TDs being career highs in 1999.
1997: 1 (27) – Rae Carruth, WR (3 seasons)
- Trevor Price (28), DT; Tiki Barber (36), RB; Dexter McCleon (40), DB; Jake Plummer (42), QB; Corey Dillon (43), RB; Sam Madison (44), CB
NOTES: With Carruth’s personal issues, anyone would have been a better pick.
The Marty Hurney era begins:
1998: 1 (14) – Jason Peter, DE (4 seasons, 7.5 sacks)
- Vonnie Holliday (19), DE; Randy Moss (21), WR; Alan Faneca (26), G; R.W. McQuarters (28), CB; Flozell Adams 2 (38), OT; Sam Cowart 2 (39), LB; Patrick Surtain 2 (44), CB; Samari Rolle 2 (46), CB;
NOTES: Vonnie Holliday would have been a much better DE, and while I can see the team not wanting to take a WR in the first round in consecutive seasons, wouldn’t Randy Moss have been an exciting player to watch, given the fantastic rookie season (and highly productive career following)? Carruth had a decent rookie season (44/545/4), but only played in 7 more games over the next 2 seasons before being convicted of murder. That REALLY puts Randy Moss’ “hijinks” in proper perspective.
1999: 2 (34) – Chris Terry, OT (8 seasons, 4 with the Panthers)
- Mike Peterson 2 (36), OLB; John Jansen 2 (37), OT
NOTES: The Panthers didn’t have a first-round pick and their second pick came only 4 choices after their first. Jansen played 12 seasons.
2000: 1 (23) – Rashard Anderson, FS (4 seasons)
- Anthony Becht (27), TE; Keith Bulluck (30), LB; Marvel Smith 2 (38), OT; Mike Brown 2 (39), SS; Chad Clifton 2 (44), OT; Jerry Porter 2 (47), WR
NOTES: Brown had a much more productive career at safety than Anderson and a couple of offensive tackles that had good careers were taken after the Panthers’ top pick.
2001: 1 (11) Dan Morgan, LB (7 seasons)
- Marcus Stroud (13), DT; Santana Moss (16), WR; Steve Hutchinson (17), G; Jeff Backus (18), OT; Casey Hampton (19), DT; Adam Archuleta (20), S; Nate Clements (21), CB; Will Allen (22), CB; Deuce McAllister (23), RB; Freddie Mitchell (25), WR; Reggie Wayne (30), WR; Todd Heap (31), TE; Drew Brees 2 (32), QB; Kyle Vanden Bosch 2 (34), DE; Alge Crumpler 2 (35), TE; Chad Johnson 2 (36), WR;
NOTES: Dan Morgan was a good linebacker when healthy, but he couldn’t stay on the field. He never played all 16 games in any of his 7 seasons (13 being his high in 2005), and played in only 4 games his final 2 seasons. The team hit upon a nice 2nd-rounder in DT Kris Jenkins with the 44th overall pick, but just look at all that talent, including QB Drew Brees, any one of whom the Panthers could have drafted instead of Morgan.
2002: 1 (2) Julius Peppers, DE
NOTES: First real big hit of the Carolina Panthers in the draft. We all know the name, and frankly with the second overall pick, it would have been a travesty had they “whiffed” on this one. I’m certainly glad they didn’t pick the next guy, a QB named Joey Harrington.
2003: 1 (8) Jordan Gross, OT
NOTES: Another hit – the first OT taken in the draft looks to have been the best of this year’s crop. Terrell Suggs, Marcus Trufant, Dallas Clark, Willie McGahee and Troy Polamalu were also first-rounders after the Panthers chose.
2004: 1 (28) Chris Gamble, CB
NOTES: Hurney seems to be getting the hang of this whole “first round” deal…Karlos Dansby, LB, and Chris Snee, OG, were both taken shortly after by other teams.
2005: 1 (14) Thomas Davis, LB
- Derrick Johnson (16), LB; Aaron Rodgers (24), QB;; Heath Miller (30), TE; Mike Patterson (31), DT; Logan Mankins (31), OG;
NOTES: Davis was a DB in college who was moved to OLB at the Pro level and 3 major knee reconstructions later, he keeps plugging away. They nailed this pick as few players would even attempt coming back after so much damage to the same knee, but boy wouldn’t it have been nice to have AR-12? It would mean no Cam Newton, but Rodgers is at the top of the heap.
2006: 1 (26) DeAngelo Williams, RB
- Nick Mangold (29), C; Joseph Addai (30), RB; DeMeco Ryans 2 (33), ILB; Deuce Lutui 2 (41), OG; Roman Harper 2 (43), S; Greg Jennings 2 (52), WR; Devin Hester 2 (54), DB
NOTES: Once again, can’t argue with this pick looking back, but imagine the duo of Steve Smith in his prime with a Greg Jennings on the other side…or maybe what the special teams might look like with Devin Hester returning kicks.
2007: 1 (25) Jon Beason, LB
- Anthony Spencer (26), LB; Joe Staley (28), OT; Ben Grubbs (29), OG; Greg Olsen (31), TE
NOTES: Another good choice at the time for Hurney, although injuries have plagued Beason the last 2 seasons.
2008: 1 (13) Jonathan Stewart , RB
- Branden Albert (15), OT; Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie (16), CB; Joe Flacco (18), QB;
NOTES: The Panthers also had the 19th overall pick, with whom they drafted OT Jeff Otah. He played in only 29 games over his 4-year career and only 4 in his last 2 seasons before retiring. Let’s continue to look a little deeper here and whom the Carolina Panthers might have drafted in HIS place before drafting Charles Godfrey in the third round.
- Sam Baker (21), OT; Chris Johnson (24), RB; Mike Jenkins (25), CB; Dustin Keller 2(30), TE; Brandon Flowers 2 (35), CB; Jordy Nelson 2 (36), WR; Matt Forte 2 (44), RB; Fred Davis 2 (48), TE; DeSean Jackson 2 (49), WR; Ray Rice 2 (55), RB
NOTES: While Stewart really fortified their backfield and gave them the “thunder” they wanted to go with DeAngelo’s “lightning,” injuries derailed Jeff Otah’s career. Otah had plenty of talent – that was never the issue. The team would have been better off taking Sam Baker, who went 2 picks later to their division-rival Atlanta Falcons, and Ray Rice has been incredibly productive with the Baltimore Ravens.
2009: 2 (43) Everette Brown, DE (3 seasons, 2 with Panthers, out of NFL now)
- Connor Barwin 2 (46), DE/OLB; Andy Levitre 2 (51), OG; LeSean McCoy 2 (53), RB; Phil Loadholt 2 (54), OT; Paul Kruger 2 (57), DE/OLB; Sebastian Vollmer 2 (58), OT
NOTES: Brown was a massive bust and either Barwin or especially Paul Kruger would have been a much better pick. Kruger, at 270 lbs, would have fit nicely as a 4-3 DE.
2010: 2 (48) Jimmy Claussen, QB
- Carlos Dunlap 2 (54), DE; Ben Tate 2 (58), RB; Golden Tate (no relation to Ben that I know of) 2 (60), WR; Brandon Spikes 2 (62), ILB; Pat Angerer 2 (63), LB
NOTES: The latest few drafts are hard to second-guess due to the nature of the beast, but I’d say just about anyone would have been a better choice than Jimmy Lostland.
2011: 1 (1) Cam Newton, QB
NOTES: Need I any here?
2012: 1 (9) Luke Kuechly, LB
NOTES: see 2011′s notes.
Since 2001, Marty Hurney seemed to be able to draft productive players with two major whiffs back-to-back, in 2009 with Everette Brown and 2010 with Jimmy Claussen. In 2011, they had the franchise’s sole #1 overall pick, which pretty dramatically shows how misses in the first round can really make your franchise crash and burn. Before 2001, the top-round drafting was a LOT more shaky, but the Panthers somehow managed to largely stay out of the top-ten in the draft after their first couple of seasons with 2 exceptions where they scored big with Peppers and Gross.
The other thing I noticed is missing a first-round pick entirely a few seasons and without doing any research on that for this article, I’m guessing those were due to a trade (not a penalty) and none of those second-rounders (Chris Terry, Everette Brown, and Jimmy Claussen) amounted to anything near what a second-round choice should generate….that being, at minimum, a very solid starter.
With David Gettleman now at the helm and his own first draft in the books, we’ve got a good starting point to track the progress of his picks going forward.
And, as always, GO PANTHERS!!!
Follow me on Twitter @Ken_Dye