Carolina Panthers: Report Card Grades for Their Last 5 Draft Classes
Carolina GM Marty Hurney has been at it for 10 years now, although the last five have seen some of his poorer draft moves. How do his drafts look in hindsight, and what can we learn from his track record?
Hurney traded down in the first round (to allow the Jets to select Darrelle Revis—ouch), but the Panthers still added a cornerstone at No. 25 in MLB Jon Beason. No. 45 was a swing and miss with WR Dwayne Jarrett, who fizzled out with 35 receptions in just over three seasons. No. 59 C Ryan Kalil, a second-rounder acquired from the Jets in the Revis deal, more than made up for his college teammate Jarrett's failings. Hurney's third-round pick was also a home run—DE Charles Johnson.
The second half of the draft was the opposite of the first, with fourth-round WR Ryne Robinson and fifth-round LB Tim Shaw barely lasting a combined two years with the team. The Jets trade allowed them to move up from the sixth to the fifth round, yielding TE Dante Rosario, who was productive in a limited role, but didn't stick with the team after his rookie contract was up. Likewise, seventh-round CB C.J. Wilson hung around for four years, but never played an integral role.
Hurney started off with an interesting pick at No. 1—RB Jonathan Stewart, who has been a first-round quality talent. He also spurred 2006 first-rounder DeAngelo Williams to his best football of his career. He then gave up his second and fourth-round picks, along with his 2009 first-round pick to get OT Jeff Otah, who helped turned the Panthers running game into a juggernaut before becoming an injury problem in recent years.
Part of the reason Hurney could do that was because he got the Jets third and fifth-round picks for Kris Jenkins. One of those picks became Charles Godfrey, who has become the team's starting strong safety, and the other Dan Connor, who has been good linebacker depth before hitting free agency this year.
The Jets fifth round pick acquired for Jenkins became TE Gary Barnidge, who has had a few moments, but hasn't stayed healthy, although he's still with the team. The Panthers traded their fifth-round pick to the Chicago Bears for safety Chris Harris, who played with the team for three mediocre years before returning to the Bears.
The Panthers mostly missed late, with sixth-round DT Nick Hayden, seventh-round DE Hilee Taylor, and compensatory seventh-round OL Mackenzay Bernadeau all making minimal contributions, but their other compensatory seventh turned into OT Geoff Schwartz, who started every game in 2010 before missing 2011 with a hip injury. He is currently a free agent.
The missing first-rounder didn't hurt too much as the Panthers made the playoffs in 2008, but the 2010 first-round pick they gave to San Francisco for mega-bust DE Everette Brown is another story. The team did get starting free safety Sherrod Martin with their natural second-round pick, but third-round DT Corvey Irvin only lasted two years with the team.
Hurney did also get a fourth-round pick from the 49ers in the 2010 first-round pick deal, and used it to get RB Mike Goodson, who was brilliant in limited time in 2010, but seemed to end up in the doghouse this year.
Fellow fourth-round FB Tony Fiammetta only lasted two years and went on to play his best football for the Dallas Cowboys. Fifth-round OG Duke Robinson played in all of one game for the team. Hurney traded his sixth-round pick for Oakland's seventh and 2010 sixth, and used that seventh to get CB Captain Munnerlyn, who has been a quality nickel back and adequate starter of late. Carolina's natural seventh went to Chicago for QB Josh McCown.
The Panthers didn't pick until the mid-second round, but they got a player some thought would go in the first round, QB Jimmy Clausen. Clausen has been an unmitigated bust. Third-round pick WR Brandon LaFell didn't bust, and is in line to play a nice-sized role in the passing game this year.
The Panthers traded down with the fourth to pick up an extra sixth, and took DE/LB Eric Norwood with the later selection acquired from the Jets. Norwood is still in development. Hurney traded his fifth round pick for Tank Tyler, who did nothing to address the team's issues at defensive tackle.
The sixth round was big for the Panthers. The pick they acquired from the Raiders in 2009 draft was a huge hit, starting DE Greg Hardy. The team sent their sixth to Cleveland for DT Louis Leonard, who was another failed attempt at plugging the hole at DT. The extra sixth acquired from the Jets became WR David Gettis, who was looking like a starter before tearing his ACL last year before the season.
Two compensatory picks became QB Tony Pike, who is no longer in the league, and S Jordan Pugh, who has stuck and become a sort of utility player on defense. Seventh round DB RJ Stanford is still with the team, but the DB taken with another compensatory pick, Robert McClain, was cut last year.
After finishing as the worst team in the league, the Panthers got their pick of everyone in the draft and made it count by selecting franchise QB Cam Newton. The second they sent to New England ended up being the first pick in the round, which stung.
In the third, the Panthers took two DTs, Terrell McClain and Sione Fua. Both started last year, but by necessity. Still, they weren't disasters when pressed into duty.
Fourth round CB Brandon Hogan and fifth-round WR Kealoha Pilares are promising talents. Sixth-round LB Lawrence Wilson was cut last year, and compensatory sixth-rounder Zack Willliams tore his ACL in the first week of training camp. Hurney traded the team's seventh-round pick for a long snapper, but the team got a compensatory seventh and turned it into OT Lee Ziemba, who is still with the team.
What Have We Learned?
After an impressive run of early picks in 2007 and 2008, Hurney failed to land a true impact player until taking Cam Newton first overall last year.
He should resist the temptation to trade future picks for players he is coveting in the draft, as those moves have been among the worst in his entire career. Hurney seems to have a good relationship with New York Jets GM Mike Tanenbaum on draft day, and he also focuses on big-program players in the draft.
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