While the Carolina Panthers' 7-9 record in 2012 was a disappointment, the upside is Carolina will have the 14th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Come draft day, all eyes will be on new GM Dave Gettleman to see if he can work the same first-round magic as his predecessor, Marty Hurney. Hurney was Carolina's GM from 2002 to 2012, a time when the Panthers absolutely nailed their first-round picks.
Here are the last 10 first-round draft picks of the Carolina Panthers. Each one of them became a solid pro who left his mark in Carolina. Remarkably, eight of these 10 players are still wearing Panthers jerseys today.
Drafted ninth overall in 2012, Luke Kuechly emerged as a force during his rookie season. Kuechly's 164 total tackles led the NFL this year. The former Boston College tackling machine should anchor the Carolina Panthers' defense for years to come.
Carolina selected QB Cam Newton first overall in 2011. Newton transformed Carolina's offense as a rookie while setting multiple NFL records, winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, and making the Pro Bowl.
While Newton's maturity and leadership skills have been questioned, Carolina definitely found their franchise quarterback in the 2011 draft.
Jonathan Stewart was drafted 13th overall in 2008 and teamed up with DeAngelo Williams in creating the most dominant running back duo in the NFL. In his five NFL seasons, Stewart's career 4.69 yards per carry ranks seventh in the NFL. If not for splitting carries with Williams and quarterback Cam Newton, Stewart could be a perennial 1,000-yard rusher.
Drafted 19th overall in 2008, the talented 6'6", 340-pound tackle started 12 games as a rookie and 13 games in his second year, though both seasons were cut short by knee injuries. Despite flashing tons of potential, Otah could never overcome his injuries, missing 31 of his final 35 games from 2010 through 2012 before being released by the Carolina Panthers.
Selected 25th overall in 2007, Jon Beason started immediately in Carolina and blossomed into one of the NFL's premier tacklers. His 328 solo tackles in his first three seasons (2007-2009) ranked second in the league. Beason has been selected to three Pro Bowls (2008, 2009, 2010) and was a first-team All-Pro in 2008.
Drafted 27th overall in 2007, DeAngelo Williams put up a respectable 1,218 rushing yards in his first two season—and then he exploded. His combined 2,632 rushing yards in 2008 and 2009 ranked fourth in the NFL, his 25 rushing touchdowns ranked fifth, and his 5.38 YPC ranked second.
DeAngelo made the Pro Bowl in 2009 and rushed for a Carolina Panthers franchise record 210 yards against the New Orleans Saints in 2012.
Selected 14th overall in 2005, Thomas Davis played sparingly as a rookie then carved out a starting spot in 2006. Between 2007 and 2009 he started all 46 games he played and his 235 solo tackles ranked 21st in the NFL. After playing just nine games between 2009 and 2011 due to injury, Davis returned in 2012 to have one of his best seasons with the Carolina Panthers recording 103 total tackles.
Drafted 28th overall in 2004, Chris Gamble has started at corner in each of his nine seasons with the Carolina Panthers, making him the anchor of Carolina's secondary. Gamble's 27 career interceptions rank 13th among all active NFL players. His 440 career solo tackles rank 16th among active CBs.
After being selected eighth overall in 2003, Jordan Gross started as a rookie and continues to anchor the Carolina Panthers' offensive line today. The durable Gross has missed just nine games in his 10-year career. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2008 and 2010 and was a First-Team All-Pro in 2008.
Carolina selected native son Julius Peppers with the No. 2 pick in 2002 and cheered as he won Defensive Rookie of the Year. Peppers spent eight years with the Carolina Panthers, making four Pro Bowls and earning two First-Team All-Pro selections.
Peppers left Carolina for the Chicago Bears in 2010 and made three straight Pro Bowls in Chicago. His 111.5 career sacks are third most among active NFL players and 18th all-time.