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
(Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports) Luke Kuechly /

Luke Kuechly – Former Carolina Panthers LB

  • No. 9 overall (2012)

Luke Kuechly was a dream come true for the Carolina Panthers and one of the best to ever play the position. Those chants of “Luuuuuuuke” still ring loud in the ears of fans of all ages and for good reason.

Kuechly never went below 100 total tackles in his career, was selected to the Pro Bowl in every season but his rookie campaign, and was given the All-Pro nod in five of his eight seasons. A truly legendary career that was cut way too short.

There has never been a better leader for the Panthers’ defense and there probably never will be, that’s how good Kuechly was and just how much his presence meant for the team. No matter what the offense did before the snap he was ready with a counter. Always talking, always communicating, there was never a quiet moment when he was on the field.

Wherever the ball went Kuechly would follow and somehow make a play. It was like he could teleport to the point of attack with how often you saw that No. 59 at the bottom of a pile.

One of my all-time favorite memories is when Kuechly got back-to-back picks against Tony Romo against the Dallas Cowboys in 2015. A game I was lucky enough to be at and still bring up to my father if I ever need bragging rights.

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While the Panthers have had their share of incredible first-round hits, none has meant more to the team than Kuechly and one can only hope we can find another player like him in 2021.