Ranking Carolina Panthers' last 10 first-round NFL Draft picks

Some have worked out. Others, not so much...

Christian McCaffrey
Christian McCaffrey / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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9. Vernon Butler - Former Carolina Panthers DL

  • Defensive Line | Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
  • No. 30 overall | 2016 NFL Draft

Vernon Butler lasted four seasons with the Carolina Panthers. He was utilized more as a rotational piece initially, but he put together a decent campaign in a contract year and decided to take his chances elsewhere.

Butler signed for the Buffalo Bills and seemed to have his best years ahead. Unfortunately, his move up north didn't go according to plan. He was moved on after two seasons and spent the final year of his pro career with the New York Giants before being cast aside entirely after the 2022 campaign.

The Panthers were right to gamble on Butler's athletic traits coming out of Louisiana Tech. Sadly, this didn't transition effectively to the professional ranks.

8. Ikem Ekwonu - Carolina Panthers OT

  • Offensive Tackle | NC State Wolfpack
  • No. 6 overall | 2022 NFL Draft

Ikem Ekwonu was the top player on Carolina's board in 2022 and fell into their laps at No. 6 overall. The left tackle's first season with the team was encouraging despite some early jitters. After significant regression as an NFL sophomore, the jury is well and truly out.

Ekwonu didn't look suited to the blocking concepts implemented by Frank Reich and Thomas Brown. More concerningly, the former North Carolina State stud was targeted as a weak link by more explosive edge rushers, conceding 12 sacks and 11 penalties from a campaign to forget.

The Panthers are giving Ekwonu another shot in 2023 amid these growing concerns. Perhaps a more stable supporting cast will help, but this is a make-or-break year for the blindside presence in no uncertain terms.