5 best first-round NFL Draft picks in Carolina Panthers history

(Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports) Cam Newton
(Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports) Cam Newton /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports) Thomas Davis /

The Carolina Panthers have had pretty good luck with their first-round selections over the years, but just who are the best ever selections?

The Carolina Panthers may not be the most storied team in the NFL – only joining the league in 1995- but the story they do have is a great one. One filled with highs and lows, expectations, disappointments, and rising against the odds.

When thinking back at what the Panthers have been able to accomplish, how far they’ve come, and looking on to a hopeful future, we can’t forget the people who brought them to where they are today. People that were largely taken in the NFL Draft.

So as we look toward the 2021 draft and the possibilities that lie there, let’s take a moment to look back at the players that made the team who they are today and the best first-round picks in Panthers history.

Thomas Davis – Former Carolina Panthers LB

  • No. 14 overall (2005)

Thomas Davis was the heart and soul of the Panthers’ defense after being taken in 2005. A true star both on and off the field with high ability as a player and high character as a person. There was never a doubt about the Walter Payton Man of the Year recipient’s effort or intellect and the team never had to worry about there being a hole beside his superstar running mate Luke Kuechly.

Davis started off his career on somewhat rocky footing, missing most of three seasons between 2009 and 2011 but followed that up with an absolute tear for a Panthers team that needed to get the linebacker position right.

On a stretch from 2012 to 2016, Davis never dropped below 100 tackles in any year – which is no easy feat to do that once let alone five years in a row- and was selected to the Pro Bowl in three consecutive campaigns as well as receiving an All-Pro nod in 2015.

Davis was always more than willing to lay down the big hit and do the dirty work of an enforcer at the position but also showed a knack for finding the ball. Especially in 2015 where he hauled in four interceptions and forced just as many fumbles for thieves avenue.

The one play that shows just what Davis meant to the Panthers came in Week 9 of the 2015 campaign against the Green Bay Packers. With an undefeated year on the line and Aaron Rodgers leading a comeback charge, he stayed back and jumped up to snag the ball out of the air before it could get to a wide-open Randle Cobb.

With all that being said, the thing I will remember most about Davis was his smile, no matter what was going on you could look at him and he was just happy to be out there.