As matters stand right now, the Panthers are without a first-round pick in this year's draft.
Nothing promising in the form of trade talks have been made for defensive end Julius Peppers, so as of right now Carolina might not be getting any picks from that source, either.
There is a bright side to this, however. The Panthers actually drafted their '09 first-rounder a year in advance. How? Quite simple: This year's first-rounder was last year's first-round pick.
Last year the Panthers took a chance by trading up for the Eagles' first-round pick in lieu of the Panthers mid second round pick, where Carolina drafted offensive tackle Jeff Otah.
Six slots prior to drafting Otah, Carolina had gotten quite lucky in snagging running back Jonathan Stewart, which effectively gave the Panthers' running game that solid one-two punch it needed on the ground.
The Panthers really lucked out with acquiring Otah. With him, the Panthers were able to effectively protect the quarterback and create gaps for the running game, at the same time putting a big physical offensive line on the field.
Since the Panthers regular season record ended at 12-4, it turns out that had they not given up this year's first round draft pick, they'd be picking 28th overall in the first round; a pick that by judging this year's first round projections, wouldn't be worth the salary.
Hurney agreed after last year’s draft the Panthers “gave up a lot.”
“There will be people who question what we gave up, giving up next year’s first and I understand that,” Hurney said last April. “But the bottom line will be this: Does it help us (as) an offense and does it help us win games? Obviously we feel like it will.”
As it turned out, the move of drafting running back Jonathan Stewart and trading up with the Eagles to take a gamble on offensive tackle Jeff Otah, were the two highlights of the '08 draft and the '08 season.
Jonathan Stewart recorded a new rookie rushing record, while the team scored a league-high 30 touchdowns rushing, helping the Panthers finish third in rushing yards.
These moves also helped the Panthers get back to the "nuts and bolts" of what this team was originally built for: tough and physical, able to run the football and wear down opponents.
All of which the Panthers did with much success in '08, recording three separate 200-yard rushing games, and a game in which they ran for 299 yards against Tampa Bay on Monday Night Football.
“They fit the personality we want to have,” Hurney said last year of Otah and Stewart. “They fit into the formula we want to have.”
If a deal doesn't get worked out by or on draft day for Julius Peppers, the Panthers will start the 2009 draft with the 59th overall pick in the second round.
Quote source: carolinagrowl.com, from the column, "Hard to be upset that the Panthers don't have a first-round pick."
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