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12 Biggest Draft Day Mistakes in Carolina Panthers' History

Charles EdwardsContributor IJanuary 15, 2017

12 Biggest Draft Day Mistakes in Carolina Panthers' History

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    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

    The Carolina Panthers' time in the NFL hasn't been very long.  That's not to say the organization hasn't made its fair share of draft day mistakes.  Some of the errors made could not be seen early on, but some of the trades that were made did enough to set the team back.  The drafts of 2009 and 2010 were perhaps the worst in franchise history.  

    In other cases, players did not pan out, play up to expectations or found their career derailed because of a total lapse in judgement.  On paper, they may have looked good, but in the end the selection was not right for Carolina.

    It should be noted the picks presented on this slideshow were the products of poor judgment calls on the part of Bill Polian and Marty Hurney.  It's too early to nitpick a Dave Gettleman selection, but there is a possibility he will have a mistake pick or trade that will make a future list.

    What makes a poor selection even more glaring is the fact there were productive players still available. The next several slides will highlight the low lights of the Panthers' biggest draft day mistakes.  Proceed with caution, the following is not pretty.

     

    Draft information provided by Panthers.com and NFL.com.  Stats are provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com and and Sports-Reference.com.

1996: Tim Biakabutuka, RB

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Selected: Round 1, 8th overall

    Years Pro: 1996-2001

    Career Rushing Stats: 611 attempts, 2,530 yards, 14 touchdowns 

    Entering their second year in the league, the Carolina Panthers had a lot to prove.  The team set a franchise record for wins by an expansion team and unbeknown to many sports fans, the Panthers were destined to continue making history by clinching a playoff berth—the fastest for an expansion team to do so.

    The Panthers were looking for a running back during the spring of 1996 and Michigan's Tim Biakabutuka appealed to them.  It wasn't hard to see why.  In his final year with the Wolverines, Biakabutuka rushed for 1,724 yards on 279 carries and scored 12 touchdowns.  His season was good enough to earn him an eighth place finish in the Heisman trophy voting.

    Unfortunately, his college game could not translate into the NFL and his best season with the Panthers saw him carry the ball 138 times for 718 yards and six touchdowns.

    Why the Pick was Bad

    The fact that Biakabutuka's overall career was disappointing and that he didn't contribute that much in his first two seasons aside, his selection may have been more glaring had the Panthers not reached the NFC title game following the 1996 regular season.

    Making matters worse was the rash of injuries that plagued Biakabutuka.  It seemed like he could not stay on the field to make a significant impact for the Panthers.

    If running back was a desired first pick for the Panthers in the 1996 draft, another running back was available. He enjoyed a very productive career and lasted three more seasons than Biakabutuka.  His name was Eddie George.

     

1997: Rae Carruth, WR

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Selected: Round 1, 27th Overall

    Years Pro: 1997-1999

    Career Receiving Stats: 62 receptions, 804 yards and four touchdowns

    Back-to-back seasons with over 1,000-yards receiving and the potential to grow as a professional wide receiver, were enough to convince the Bill Polian-led front office that Rae Carruth was their man.  He led his conference in receiving yards during his final two years at Colorado and even showed potential as a special teams player.

    Carruth had one decent season in his career; his rookie year in which he caught 44 passes for 545 yards and four touchdowns.  Those numbers become even more depressing when it's discovered he would not score again and his production would rapidly diminish. 

    Why the Pick was Bad

    Productivity aside, things within the organization began to unravel after it was revealed that Carruth was charged in connection to the murder of his pregnant girlfriend, Cherica Adams.  

    Carolina severed ties with the receiver and Carruth was eventually convicted and sentenced in 1999 to a term of 18 to 24 years in prison.  He is scheduled to be released in 2018.  Had things worked out differently for Carruth, it is hard to imagine his contributions on the field being any better.  

    The Panthers could have avoided the mess that was the Rae Carruth saga and taken Derrick Mason instead.  Mason was a fourth-round selection and, considering there weren't too many notable receivers taken in that class, Carolina may have been better off trading down.  As for Mason, he would go onto an All-Pro caliber career.

1998: Jason Peter, DE

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    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    Selected: Round 1, 14th overall

    Years Pro: 1998-2001

    Career Stats: 83 tackles and 7.5 sacks (38 games)

    The selection of Jason Peter set into motion the fourth-straight year in which the Carolina Panthers whiffed horribly on their first draft pick.  Like the first-rounders taken before him the past three seasons, Peter was full of college cred and was a consensus All-American in 1997.

    However, he failed to make any significant impact as a rookie as he would play in a career high 14 games and record 33 tackles and one sack.  That is not the kind of production a team wants to see from their first-round pick.

    Why the Pick was Bad

    In a word: Injuries.  Peter dealt with chronic neck problems during his tenure in the league and it hindered him from being the kind of defensive end he was expected to be in Carolina.  If the Panthers knew he would suffer from such a setback, it stands to reason they would have avoided him altogether.

    Carolina would have benefited from drafting Vonnie Holliday, who played 15 seasons and was taken five picks later when he was drafted by Green Bay.

1999-2000: 1st-Round Picks Traded to Washington

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    Craig Jones/Getty Images

    The Carolina Panthers have never been successful when it comes to trades involving draft picks.  More specifically, draft picks that go to other teams for the purpose of landing a veteran player who could be an impact player for the franchise.

    That was the case in 1999 when Carolina traded their 1999 and 2000 first-round draft picks to Washington in exchange for defensive end Sean Gilbert.

    How did the trade work out?

    Gilbert spent five years with the Panthers and recorded 183 tackles and 15.5 sacks.  Needless to say, his production did not warrant two draft picks, as his best years were well behind him.  The fallout left many fans of the team angry, and the lack of first-round selections hurt the progress moving forward.

    On the other hand, Washington took full advantage of the situation and traded what would have been the fifth overall pick to New Orleans, who drafted Ricky Williams after Mike Ditka sold the farm to move up in the first round.

    If the Panthers retained their pick, they could have been on the receiving end of the Saints' desperate attempt to move up, and they could have taken a defensive end such as Jevon Kearse, who would have been available if Carolina moved down to the 12th pick.

    Unfortunately, the trade would prompt the Panthers to deal again to move into the first round of the 2000 draft where they selected Rashard Anderson with the 23rd overall pick. 

    As luck or misfortune would have it, Anderson proved to be a dud.  He spent only two seasons in the NFL. His total production came out to be 59 tackles and one interception.

    Out of the two drafts combined, the only solid contributor to come out and turn in a solid career was Mike Rucker.  The defensive end from Nebraska was taken in the second round with the 38th overall pick and enjoyed a solid nine-year career.

2002: DeShaun Foster, RB

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Selected: 2nd round, 34th overall

    Years Pro: 2003-2008

    Career Rushing Stats (Carolina): 851 attempts 3,336 yards and 10 touchdowns

    It could be considered unfair to label DeShaun Foster as a bad pick.  After all, he was a solid contributor from 2005 to 2007, where he rushed for at least 870 yards.  If there was a knock to his production, it would be the lack of scoring on his part.  Part of that could be attributed to splitting time with DeAngelo Williams in 2006 and 2007.

    Foster even had an iconic touchdown score (pictured) against New England in Super Bowl XXXVIII.  His selection is one that is not about his production, but rather who was still available when he was drafted.

    Why the Pick was Bad

    Clinton Portis was still on the board when Foster was taken in the second round.  Portis' career lasted two years longer (three, if you count the fact Foster did not play his rookie year) and saw him produce six seasons with at least 1,000 yards rushing.  Additionally, he had a nose for the end zone, as he scored 75 touchdowns in his career.

    Another running back who was not as successful as Portis, but more efficient than Foster, was Brian Westbrook.  He was around until the third round of that year's draft and while he only rushed for a 1,000 yards in two of his nine seasons, he was consistent enough to earn All-Pro honors and record 45 touchdowns before retiring.

2003: Bruce Nelson, C

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    NFL Photos/Getty Images /Getty Images

    Selected: 2nd round, 50th overall

    Years Pro: 2003

    Much like Jason Peter, Bruce Nelson saw his career cut short because of injuries.  In his case, he was dealing with a hip issue that prevented him from being able to take the field beyond the 2003 season.  In total, he appeared in 14 games and started in one.

    It may be unfair to suggest a player was a disappointment based on limited action because of injuries, but the thought that Carolina's front office, scouts and training staff were unaware of any setbacks related to Nelson point to failure in the evaluation process.  

    Granted, athletic medicine is far superior today and so are the scouting standards.  However, it would seem that something as serious as what Nelson was going through would have been discovered before drafting him in the second.

    Why the Pick was Bad

    The injury aspect should be enough in its own right, but if the Panthers needed a center, they could have looked into the free-agency pool.  In terms of best player available, Carolina could have targeted Osi Umenyiora or Anquan Boldin.

    The latter probably would have made more sense, as the Panthers were set at defensive end with Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker.  Adding Umenyiora to the mix could have created a crowded situation at the position.  Of course, if Carolina employed a 3-4 defensive base at the time, they could have moved Peppers to outside linebacker.

    Classic example of what might have been, but clearly Nelson was not the correct pick for the Panthers in the second round.

     

2005: Eric Shelton, RB

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Selected: 2nd Round, 54th overall

    Years Pro: 2006

    Career Rushing Stats: Eight attempts, 23 yards

    If the Carolina Panthers were looking for a feature back, or at least someone who could split time with DeShaun Foster, they missed badly on drafting Eric Shelton out of Louisville.  He was productive in his final year of school, rushing for 938 yards and 20 touchdowns.  Of course, that was against Conference-USA competition.

    Shelton did not play in his rookie year and his career in general begs the question: What was Carolina thinking?

    Why the Pick was Bad

    Two players who have developed into great players were still on the board at the time.  One was a wide receiver who went later in round two and the other was a running back that was taken atop the third round.  Those players were Vincent Jackson and Frank Gore, respectively.

    Had the latter been taken instead of Shelton, the face and success in Carolina would have probably been dramatically different from 2005 until today.  

    Let that sink in for a minute.

2008: Jeff Otah, OT

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Selected: 1st Round, 19th overall

    Years Pro: 2008-2011

    Jeff Otah is perhaps the best example of a player who starts out strong and then declines before burning out altogether.  Much of the blame for his decline centers on his lack of discipline and failing to stay in shape.  This played a role in why he was unable to stay healthy as he battled knee problems on a constant basis after his second year in the league.

    Otah would miss all of the 2010 season, and after the 2011 campaign, the Panthers attempted to trade him to the New York Jets.  The trade would have gone through had Otah passed his physical.  He returned to Carolina and was eventually released.

    Why the Pick was Bad

    The Panthers traded with Philadelphia to get back into the first round.  Marty Hurney, the general manager at the time, felt Otah would not be around when it was Carolina's turn to pick again.  Carolina traded the 43rd and 109th picks, plus their first-round pick in 2009 to the Eagles in order to move up. 

    Carolina should have stood pat, retained their picks and then drafted Josh Sitton.  The offensive tackle from Central Florida was drafted by Green Bay and still continues a successful career.

    Losing their first pick in the 2009 draft would prove detrimental and set off a chain reaction of events that would lead to Carolina's rebuilding campaign following the 2010 season. 

     

2009: 1st-Round Pick Traded to Philadelphia and Everette Brown, DE

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    As mentioned in a previous slide, the Carolina Panthers don't fare too well when it comes to trading away picks.  They lacked a first-round pick in the 2009 draft and with Julius Peppers ready to walk, the franchise needed a backup plan.  

    The Panthers used their first pick of that year's draft to take Everette Brown in the second round.  After a strong 2008 season at Florida State where he accrued 13.5 sacks, it appeared that Carolina made a steal in the second. 

    However, they did trade up with San Francisco to get him.  By now, you should know where this is going. Carolina would lose another first-round pick and the return they would get from Brown would not justify the cost.

    Brown played just two seasons with the Panthers.  His stat line read 47 tackles and six sacks.  How Marty Hurney survived that year is amazing.

    If Carolina coveted a defensive end to the point of trading up, the team would have been wise to draft Connor Barwin.  He may not be with the team that drafted him (Houston), but there is no denying he has had a far better career than Brown.

2010: Jimmy Clausen, QB

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Selected: 2nd Round, 48th overall

    Years Pro: 2010-Present

    Career Passing Stats: 1-9 career record 157/299 1,558 yards, three touchdowns and nine interceptions

    The 2010 draft was arguably the worst in Carolina history.  It was so bad, it merits two slides to cover the misfires the front office made and would be the beginning of the end to Marty Hurney's tenure as the team's general manager.

    Carolina needed a quarterback and, based on their draft position, they would be out of the running for any of the top players at the position.  As it turned out, the only decent quarterback from that draft was Sam Bradford.  The other notable quarterback taken before Jimmy Clausen was Tim Tebow.  

    As for Clausen, he looked to be the heir-apparent to lead the Panthers for the next few years.  Jake Delhomme was released but Clausen's performance did little to make fans forget the beloved franchise quarterback.

    Why the Pick was Bad

    This was not the year to be drafting a franchise quarterback.  It didn't help matters any that John Fox was a lame duck coach that season and was forced to use a steady rotation of quarterbacks to get through the season.  Fox has a penchant for playing veteran quarterbacks and it was evident when he did not allow rookie backup Tony Pike to start during that horrific year.

    Drafting Clausen was not the answer.

    The best solution would have been for Delhomme to keep playing.  He wasn't going to be any worse than the Carolina quarterbacks who started that season.  By waiting to address the quarterback situation, the Panthers could have drafted either Demaryius Thomas or Dez Bryant.  Of course, that is assuming they had retained the 17th overall pick.

    The lost pick aside, there were better options in the second round with Golden Tate and Brandon Spikes both being available.

    Instead, the team was forced to take a player who was not ready to lead a NFL team and continued to shoot themselves in the foot later in the draft.

2010: Armanti Edwards, WR

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Selected: 3rd Round, 89th Overall

    Years Pro: 2010-Present

    Career Receiving Stats (Carolina): Five receptions and 121 yards

    Career Punt Returning Stats (Carolina): 36 returns, 253 yards

    Career Kick Returning Stats (Carolina): 15 returns, 295 yards

    Armanti Edwards must have really put on a good show for the Carolina scouts and front office.  The Panthers liked him so much they traded back into the third round (and sacrificed their second-round pick in 2011) to draft the talented quarterback out of nearby Appalachian State.  Of course, he would not play quarterback, as he was to be converted into a wide receiver and handled returns on special teams.

    Neither would work out for Edwards as he never seemed to get into the flow of the NFL game.

    He would spend nearly three-and-a-half seasons with Carolina before being released and picked up by Cleveland.  His woes have continued, as he only appeared in two games for the Browns and caught one pass.

    Once again, another example of a wasted draft day trade by the Panthers.

    Why the Pick was Bad

    It was obvious the Panthers were in need of an explosive receiver who could be an impact player and take the focus away from Steve Smith.  Unfortunately, the scouts and front office were looking at the wrong guy.  As it turned out, there was another receiver (specifically a tight end) who was still on the board and would be taken six picks later.

    Jimmy Graham was drafted by New Orleans and has been one of the best receivers in the game today. Regardless of his position classification, he has proven to be a headache for opposing defenses and has done more in one game than Edwards has in his career.

    As noted in the previous slide, the 2010 draft was terrible for Carolina.  Only one player outperformed expectations and he was taken in the sixth round.  Greg Hardy is around for at least one more season, but has proven to be an effective pass-rusher.  It just goes to show that the draft was so bad for the Panthers that it took them six rounds to select a guy who would develop into a solid player.

2012: Joe Adams, WR/PR

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Selected: 4th Round, 104th Overall

    Years Pro: 2012

    Career Punt Return Stats: 11 returns, 127 yards

    Career Kick Return Stats: Nine returns, 208 yards

    Career Receiving Stats: One reception for seven yards

    Career Rushing Stats: Three attempts for 13 yards

    Marty Hurney's position as Carolina general manager would end during the middle of the 2012 season. That allowed him to make one final error in judgment when it came to the draft.  His first-round pick turned out to be an excellent choice, as he brought in Luke Kuechly.  However, it could be argued that his strategy and selections were questionable for the remainder of that year's draft.

    Carolina had two picks in the fourth round.  The first netted Frank Alexander, who has done fairly well in a supporting role at defensive end over the past two seasons.  The second pick brought in Joe Adams, who was expected to upgrade the Panthers' return game on special teams.

    Why the Pick was Bad

    Carolina needed help in the secondary.  They would draft Josh Norman in the next round, but they could have drafted Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin with the 104th pick and probably received more value from him than they did from Joe Adams.  

    Boykin has been a steady defensive back with Philadelphia since entering the league and he could have been an option in the return game for Carolina had the Panthers drafted him.  As far as returning kicks are concerned, Boykin was a lot better at it in college than Adams.  Boykin returned 110 kicks for 2,663 yards and four touchdowns.  Adams' specialty rested in the punt return game as he had a career total of 36 returns for 570 yards and five touchdowns for Arkansas.  

    Ultimately, Hurney and company valued a receiver and punt returner over a defensive back who could return kickoffs.  Moving into 2014, Hurney is gone, Adams is no longer on the roster and Boykin continues to grow with the Eagles.

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