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!) Yesterday’s list, 25-21, can be found here if you need to catch up on the players already listed. As for now, I present to you numbers 20-16!
Update: Quintin Mikell is not included on this list. I typed up all 25 bios before the Panthers signed him.
20. Mike Mitchell, Strong Safety
Similar to Drayton Florence, Mike Mitchell was brought into the Panthers early in the offseason to provide depth to a team that was lacking in the secondary last year. The Panthers were desperately in need of a strong safety to play across from Charles Godfrey who moved over to the free safety spot. Let’s face it; we needed Mitchell because, even though Haruki Nakamura is a good player, he just wasn’t starting material. So far Mitchell has shown his worth in camp and in the preseason, making some really good plays and cementing himself as the second starting safety. He did let a few big plays slip away from him, most recognizably, the breakdown in the secondary on a touchdown drive by the Ravens in the third preseason game. He is definitely an improvement from last year, and though he has slipped up in the past he’s still a very solid player, which earned him the 20th spot on my countdown
19. Brandon LaFell, Wide Receiver
Heads up CatCrave readers, I love Brandon LaFell. I own his jersey. In Madden I always throw to him, and I always yell at the TV when Cam bypasses a wide open LaFell for Olsen or Smith. I’ve been vocal about my adoration for LaFell and I will not stop till he submits himself as the “next Mushin Muhammad”. The problem is this: he hasn’t shown fans anything. He is the number two receiver, so he has that going for him and his stats consistently improve year after year but his wheel of improvement is a slow moving one. I really have high hopes for LaFell, I wouldn’t have created my own special chant for when he catches a football; he just has a lot to prove before everyone is screaming LAAAAFELL. It all isn’t wasted potential however. He has done enough thus far to earn a starting spot alongside Steve Smith, and his highlight reel is pretty stellar. His touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles last year as well as his record breaking touchdown catch ON MY BIRTHDAY the year before last being my personal favorites. His level of play has brought him up to number 19 on my list.
18. Josh Norman, Cornerback
Another favorite Panther of mine, Josh Norman came into a good situation last season. He was an automatic starter opposite of Chris Gamble, but his arrogance and big-headedness got in his way. Norman has a TON of athletic gifts, something he has shown us this preseason, he just got too overzealous and started playing risky and honestly, very selfish. All that has changed so far and now Norman seems like a player hungry to improve his team and himself. His transformation has been well documented by the coaching staff, which has only applauded his tireless effort to improve himself as a player. His desire for success has shown in this year’s preseason where Norman accumulated 4 interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. He also made some beautiful pass deflections. Norman has what it takes to be a stud in this league and for this Panthers team. The coaching staff seemingly knows this and therefore cut Drayton Florence based on Norman’s and Thomas’s performances in the preseason. Since his ceiling is SO high and he has definitely shown he is up to the challenge, Josh Norman comes in on my list as number 18.
17. Graham Gano, Kicker
Graham Gano has had a very interesting career in the NFL. A winner of a few kicking awards with Florida State University, he was soon picked up by the Washington Redskins before he was cut due to an injury which occurred in his second season of play. He earned a nick-name in Washington, “OH NO GANO”. Obviously it wasn’t the good kind of nickname and Gano earned it with good reason, he just wasn’t a consistent kicker. So far things seem to have changed for Gano. He did not miss a single field goal in the preseason and made some very impressive field goals to boot. Speaking of boots, Gano really has one. He possesses the strength to launch the ball past the end-zone, something the Panthers haven’t had since Kasay’s good years. Gano has shown his skills and he has won me over, I am an official Graham Gano fan and defender. For all those reasons, I have Graham Gano at number 17 on my list.
16. Captain Munnerlyn, Cornerback
Fan favorite Captain Munnerlyn has really done a great job solidifying himself as a premier nickel back in this league. He was a hot commodity when he was on the market for a few weeks after free agency opened up, and for good reason. Captain Munnerlyn is a great player. His two interceptions were returned for touchdowns and he excels at disruptive play. But he is a nickel corner and probably will never be a straight run down the field and breakup passes type of CB. He just doesn’t have the height. I’m taller than Captain Munnerlyn, who stands at 5 foot 8 inches. He is however a great player and a player the Panthers really need, not only for his level of play, but for the fans. He has definitely made a name for himself with flashy plays and disruptive plays. Munnerlyn is a great player who deserves every amount of praise he gets. He is a standup guy and a standup player. His stature as a fan favorite and his tremendous amount of work, effort, and just great play earns Munnerlyn the 16th spot on my list.
Return to CatCrave.com tomorrow for numbers 15-11 on my list!