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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5. Brian Burns - Former Carolina Panthers OLB

  • Edge Rusher | Florida State Seminoles
  • No. 19 overall | 2019 NFL Draft

Brian Burns is one of the league's most explosive pass-rushers. His diminished numbers last season came thanks to fewer chances to get after the quarterback and becoming the focal point of opposing protection schemes. Now, he'll become the latest established star to shine elsewhere.

The Carolina Panthers lost leverage and backed themselves into a corner by mismanaging Burns' contract situation. They traded him to the New York Giants for second and fifth-round selections. This came with criticism attached, but Dan Morgan felt there was no other option at this stage of their rebuild.

Burns should thrive on a defensive front that also includes Dexter Lawrence and Kayvon Thibodeaux. Considering his age and the extra freedom he'll receive with more accomplished talent around him, superstardom beckons for the former Florida State edge rusher.

4. Christian McCaffrey - Former Carolina Panthers RB

  • Running Back | Stanford Cardinal
  • No. 8 overall | 2017 NFL Draft

Christian McCaffrey is arguably the league's most impactful non-quarterback on offense. His dual-threat ability out of the backfield and red-zone prowess spearheaded the San Francisco 49ers to the NFC Conference championship. However, they fell agonizingly short of winning the Super Bowl once again.

The Panthers got a lot out of McCaffrey, even if Ron Rivera rode him too hard. Injuries began to mount over his final two full seasons in Carolina. Scott Fitterer traded to the Niners in 2022. He failed to use these extra draft selections effectively and was removed from the equation.

McCaffrey remains beloved among the Panthers fanbase, and rightfully so. Yet another peak performer who departed well ahead of time.