Recently I had a friend of mine ask me who I thought the best Panther on our roster was. Immediately I gave a nonsensical answer, but on further speculation I found myself lost as to who the number one player could be. Is it the DROY Luke Kuechly or the OROY Cam Newton? Is it one of the top two sack leaders in the NFC? Or is it Steve Smith, the leader in almost everything receiving for the franchise? I soon came up with a top Panther but not before I thought of posting my Top 25 players here on CatCrave.com. I tried my best to give every player on our roster a fair shake, without being biased (Sorry LaFell, you are still number one in my heart!) So without further ado here are the Top 25 Carolina Panthers starting with number 25 – 21.
Update: Quintin Mikell is not included on this list. I typed up all 25 bios before the Panthers signed him.
Honorable Mention: Jonathan Stewart
Poor Jonathan Stewart. The latter half of his career has been riddled with injuries, withholding him from reaching the heights he did in his first few years as a Panther. Personally I felt it unfair to post him on the list because Stewart is currently on the P.U.P. (Physically Unable to Perform) list and therefore unable to perform. He would definitely be a high placeholder in terms of the list but the fact that he is unable play until maybe the sixth week, again, makes it unfair.
25. Byron Bell, Right Tackle
Byron Bell has had a career filled with doubt, and for some fans his career has honestly been a letdown. However, I try to see things with the glass half full. Byron Bell has been in charge of the Right Tackle position since he was picked up in 2011. Bell was brought in as an Undrafted Free Agent in 2011, from New Mexico University, and was put into the starting Tackle position about three or four games into the season, a real journeyman. Bryon Bell has only been with the Panthers two seasons, three starting this year, and already he has caught enough slack for the entire O-Line. Bell has consistently let opposing lineman past him and into Cam’s personal bubble and it seems to be just a lack of experience. I like Bell though. He stands in at 6 foot 5 inches and weighs 340 pounds. He shows flashes of a great lineman, the line around him just isn’t durable enough to stop the opposition consistently. He is a huge body with loads of potential and for those two reasons alone he comes in at number 25 on my list.
24. Josh Thomas, Cornerback
Another player from the class of 2011, Josh Thomas was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys as a 5th round, 143th overall pick. Thomas was waived by the Cowboys before the initial season and was picked up by Carolina soon after. So far Thomas has had a very solid career, with last year being a standout year for the young Cornerback. Thomas started four games last season and played in all sixteen. He ended last year with seven passes defended, one fumble recovered, and twenty seven solo tackles. He has slowly made an impression on the coaching staff which has resulted in the waiving of Drayton Florence and placing Thomas as the starting Cornerback, opposite of Captain Munnerlyn. The coaches have placed faith in Josh Thomas and Josh Norman and because of his potential and the faith distilled into him by the coaches I have placed Josh Thomas as number 24 on the list.
23. Amini Silatolu, Left Guard
A player in his second year, Amini Silatolu was drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft out of Midwestern State. Silatolu drew attention from NFL scouts early on and was projected to be drafted in the late first round, early second. He played well, but similar to Bryon Bell, Silatolu caught a lot of slack for his level of play. Many criticized the waste of a second round pick on a player from a Division-II school and his level of play wasn’t at his projected rate. Again I like to think that Silatolu played well and apparently I am not alone, Silatolu made Pro Football Weekly’s 2012 All-Rookie team. He has a lot of ground to make up with the fans, but I think Silatolu will be just fine. Again, because of his potential as a premier Offensive Guard, I have Silatolu at number 23 on my list.
22. D.J. Moore, Cornerback
D.J. Moore was brought to the Carolina Panthers this year to add depth to the Panthers secondary, along with fellow veteran Cornerback Drayton Florence. However Moore survived the roster cuts, unlike Florence. Moore’s career hasn’t been as closely followed by a Panther faithful like myself, so all I know is what the great internet can provide for me, which in the end is quite a lot. Moore has paved his career with interceptions. Lots of interceptions. He doesn’t exactly have a great track record as a starting cornerback, more of a nickel corner, which is where Moore primarily played with the Chicago Bears. He was however a ball-hawk with the Bears, ending his four season career in the Windy City with ten interceptions. I have reason to believe that is why the Panthers picked up Moore after his four year contract with the Bears came to a close. The Panthers were lacking in producing turnovers and that is exactly what Moore was brought in to do. Moore has already returned an interception for a touchdown during the preseason and I expect him to produce similar numbers throughout the season.
21. Frank Alexander, Defensive End
Frank Alexander was brought in last year as a fourth round draft pick. He immediately added depth to the sleeping giant that was the Panthers Defensive Line. He played in all sixteen games with the Panthers and finished the season with two and a half sacks. Alexander has loads of potential and could start on most NFL teams. His pass rushing ability is unbelievable and he shows great talent as a run stopper. Alexander has a storied college career as well; winning the Big-12 Defensive Lineman award as well as the Co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the year with A.J. Klein, a Panther rookie. Unfortunately for Alexander the Panthers already have two league leading pass rushers at defensive end. In all honesty I think the Panthers might have to part ways with Alexander in the near future. I expect Alexander to continue to produce at a high level. As player with such a high ceiling, it will be tough to hang on to him with two proven Defensive Ends already on the roster. It’s a real shame but it could be the scenario that plagues the Panthers in the near future.
Stay tuned to CatCrave.com for the rest of the list in the coming week!