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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1. Shaq Thompson - Carolina Panthers LB

  • Linebacker | Washington Huskies
  • No. 25 overall | 2015 NFL Draft

When taking into account all the criteria for this ranking, Shaq Thompson rightfully finds himself atop the list. The linebacker endured some rough luck on the health front last season, but he's incredibly consistent and has gradually evolved into an integral part of the Carolina Panthers defensive plans.

Thompson arrived as a first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and has stood the test of time. He's one of two remaining players from Carolina's memorable run to the Super Bowl. It's also clear that learning from the likes of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis during his early transition had a profound impact on his approach.

The former Washington college standout might not excel at anything in particular, but he does everything well. He's an exceptional communicator pre-snap and a significant force against the run. As he gets older, Thompson has emerged as the locker room alpha from a leadership standpoint, someone other players turn to for motivation, advice, and guidance.

He cares deeply about the organization and is a voice that holds a significant amount of weight in the building. Thompson took another pay cut to stick around in 2024. Providing there are no further complications on the health front, it would be a surprise if the veteran didn't add to his impressive track record.