Re-Grading the Carolina Panthers' Past 5 Drafts
The results of a draft class can be either successful or an utter failure depending on how well a team's general manager addressed certain needs or areas on the roster. Over the past five years, the Carolina Panthers have had two different general managers making the tough decisions and have lived or died by the results of those acquisitions.
Marty Hurney was the architect for the drafts between 2009-2012 along with several drafts before that period. Dave Gettleman was responsible for last year's and is preparing for his second NFL draft as the Carolina general manager.
Carolina's results from the past five drafts have been a mixed bag. Some classes were good and others were the complete opposite. However, all of them have built the team that stands today.
With that in mind, how did those draft classes grade out?
The next few slides will discuss the period between 2009-2013 and the draft classes the Panthers put together. Each slide will discuss the players drafted, the round in which they were selected and the impact he made for the team. Each draft will be concluded with a grade for the class based on the contributions the players selected made to Carolina.
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah (1st Round, 14th Overall) Concerns regarding Lotulelei's health caused him to drop. The fear of the 13 teams ahead of the Panthers became their undoing as Carolina took the talented defensive tackle as its first pick and the young man did not disappoint.
Lotulelei started in every game in 2013 and helped turn the defensive front of the Panthers into a very strong unit. By the end of his rookie season, Lotulelei had accrued 48 tackles and three sacks. He should be an everyday fixture on the defense moving forward.
Kawann Short, DT, Purdue (2nd Round, 44th Overall): Fans of Carolina (and perhaps some football people in general) were surprised to see the Panthers take another defensive tackle in the second round. Short was considered a first-round talent in some circles and Dave Gettleman agreed with them.
By selecting Short, a glaring weakness of the defense turned into an immediate strength. He appeared in every game, but he was used to rotate with Dwan Edwards throughout the season. Eventually, he should be lining up alongside Lotulelei and could earn a few starting nods in 2014.
Edmund Kugbila, OG, Valdosta State (4th Round, 108th Overall): The jury is still out on the big lineman from Valdosta State. Kugbila spent much of the season on injured reserve and the increasing numbers of lost guards for the Panthers resulted in a revolving door of sorts. However, Kugbila did provide enough reason for the Carolina staff to believe he can be a contributor on offense. He will need to stay healthy and earn his spot on the line if he is to prove himself.
A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State (5th Round, 148th Overall): Klein was one of the few mid-round picks who turned into a pleasant surprise during the 2013 season. When veteran linebacker Chase Blackburn was sidelined due to injury, Klein stepped in and performed admirably well. He registered 21 tackles and two sacks over the course of the season. Klein should be competing for the starting job at the weak side against Blackburn during camp later this summer.
Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon (6th Round, 182nd Overall): Barner's selection was a bit surprising as the Panthers were and still are set at running back. Many felt Carolina would pursue a defensive back with its final pick, but Barner's ability to make plays on special teams served as the driving force behind his selection. However, he only played in eight games in 2013 and returned just two kicks for a combined 17 yards. He's a work in progress, but if he stays healthy, he should be the go-to man on punt and kick returns heading into the 2014 season.
The Panthers tied for the fewest picks in last year's draft and the concentration was on defense. Gettleman rebuilt the defensive line and added depth at linebacker, which helped turn the unit into one of the league's best in 2013. If Kugbila and Barner can both rebound from their rookie seasons and become impact players, Gettleman's first draft as Carolina's general manager will be considered a rousing success.
Luke Kuechly, MLB, Boston College (1st Round, ninth Overall): Many experts expected the Carolina Panthers to draft a defensive tackle with their first pick. Instead, Marty Hurney went with the best player available and selected the tackle machine from Boston College.
Kuechly has not disappointed in his first two seasons as a pro. He earned AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors after his first year and followed that campaign by earning the AP Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. After two seasons, Kuechly has earned All-Pro status, appeared in all 32 games, logged 331 tackles and was named to a Pro Bowl. Additionally, he has intercepted six passes and has sacked the quarterback three times. Kuechly has established himself as one of the best defensive players in the game.
Amini Silatolu, OG, Midwestern State (2nd Round, 40th Overall): Silatolu still has a ways to go in proving himself. This upcoming season could be the deciding factor, so staying healthy and getting into the game will be important for him. He has the talent to be a good interior interior lineman, but he cannot prove his worth if he is on the sidelines.
Frank Alexander, DE, Oklahoma (4th Round, 103rd Overall): It's difficult to find starting time when the guys ahead of you are recording double-digit sacks on a consistent basis. However, Alexander has been a solid backup to both Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson when on the field. His overall numbers pale in comparison, but he can still make a play when given the opportunity.
Through two seasons, he has appeared in 28 games (starting six of them) and registered 33 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Alexander could figure to be the heir-apparent to Hardy if he departs after the 2014 season, but he will need to show the Carolina staff and front office he can pick up the slack. If not, he may be relegated to a backup role for the foreseeable future.
Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas (4th Round, 104th Overall): Adams was impressive as a return man in college and the thought process was he could bring to the Panthers what he did at Arkansas. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
His career lasted one season and during that time, he returned 11 punts for 127 yards, 31 kicks for 355 yards and no scores. It did not help that he was prone to fumbling the ball as he had four of them. As a receiver, he was not impressive. He only had one catch for seven yards. This selection was a waste as it could have been used elsewhere.
Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina (5th Round, 143rd Overall): Norman showed promise during his rookie season. However, he was limited by injuries during the 2014 season. He only appeared in seven games and when he was on the field, he looked nothing like the player he was in 2013. Fortunately, he is still young and has a chance to rebound from the previous season. A good showing is important because the competition should be pretty stiff during this summer's camp.
Brad Nortman, P, Wisconsin (6th Round, 207th Overall): Carolina needed a punter and the 2012 class offered a couple of decent options. Nortman proved to be the difference as he was a huge success on special teams and helped tremendously by flipping the field and making opposing offenses cover a lot of yards to get into the end zone.
He has played in every game since his rookie year and is averaging 45.3 yards per punt. He broke his personal best of 63 yards on a punt last year with a punt that measured that 72 yards. Much like kicker Graham Gano, he should be a part of the Panthers' roster for a long time.
D.J. Campbell, S, California (7th Round, 216th Overall): The other member of this draft class who is no longer on the Carolina roster. Campbell did little as a rookie and was released in 2013 and picked up by the Miami Dolphins. So far, his career numbers consist of 15 tackles and one pass defensed.
Kuechly alone makes this draft class impressive. His rising star and potential to be one of the game's greatest linebackers makes it easier to overlook the two duds that did not pan out for the Panthers. It's possible the grade for this class can rise, but that will depend on the performances of Alexander, Silatolu and Norman.
Cam Newton, QB, Auburn (1st Round, 1st Overall): Newton was the reward (or consolation prize) for one of the worst seasons in Carolina history. Despite the constant scrutiny from critics and fans alike, Newton has established himself as a potential star in the NFL. He set a lot of rookie records for a quarterback in 2011 and while he has stalled a bit in passing yards and touchdowns, he has seen his team's win total increase every year with him under center.
He finally reached the playoffs last year after helping guide Carolina to its first division title since 2008. After three seasons in the league, Newton has earned the AP Rookie of the Year Award, been named to two Pro Bowls and is the new face of the Panthers.
Terrell McClain, DT, South Florida (3rd Round, 65th Overall): McClain started in 12 games for Carolina and recorded 19 tackles, one sack and recovered a fumble. After that, he was let go and has bounced between Houston and New England. As far as third-round picks go, his selection was not a good one.
Sione Fua, DT, Stanford (3rd Round, 97th Overall): If Fua had panned out as either a defensive tackle or offensive guard (a position he switched to after injuries took their toll), it may have made this class a bit stronger. He appeared in 30 games as a Panther and logged 22 tackles before being cut and picked up by Denver.
Brandon Hogan, CB, West Virginia (4th Round, 98th Overall): The selection of Hogan could be considered one of the worst in team history. Injuries limited him to only three games and he has just as many tackles. Currently, he is out of the NFL.
Kealoha Pilares, WR, Hawaii (5th Round, 132nd Overall): Injuries have kept him on the sidelines and while Pilares is still on the Carolina roster, time is running out for him. He only has one touchdown reception and kick return for a touchdown as his claims to fame while with the Panthers and little else. He could be on his way out this summer with all of the new faces at wide receiver on the team.
Lawrence Wilson, LB, Connecticut (6th Round, 166th Overall): About the only significant thing Wilson did as a pro was change his uniform number three times. Now, a member of Chicago, he is still trying to find a foothold in professional football and earn some playing time.
Zack Williams, OG, Washington State (6th Round, 203rd Overall): Williams played in just one game with Carolina between 2011 and 2012. Not much can be said about him now, as he is one of several free agents trying to find a team.
Lee Ziemba, OT, Auburn (7th Round, 244th Overall): Ziemba's career as a whole was much like his time with the Panthers—short. He played in six games for Carolina before landing in Indianapolis. He has been out of work since.
Overall, this draft class was a bust. Newton was the only player to put together a solid career and looks to be the last man standing if Pilares is cut later this year. Too many players either fizzled out or never lived up to their potential and as fans, we're left wondering, "what was Marty Hurney and his staff thinking?"
Grade: C- (without Newton, F)
Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame (2nd Round, 48th Overall): Clausen saw his time in Carolina finally end this past year. Once regarded as a standout high school and college quarterback, he turned out to be a bust after many felt Carolina got a steal in the second round. He was a part of the merry-go-round of quarterbacks that lame-duck coach John Fox used in 2010 and Clausen did very little to reassure fans of anything positive.
He was 1-9 as a starter and his career stats were less than desirable. He was 157 of 299 for 1,558 yards, three touchdowns and nine interceptions. When Cam Newton and Derek Anderson joined the team the following season, Clausen was restricted to the third-string QB role and rarely suited for games.
Brandon LaFell, WR, LSU (3rd Round, 78th Overall): LaFell has the potential to be a good receiver in the league. It just won't be with Carolina. His career numbers are decent, but they fall below the expectation of a second-string wide receiver. He reached the end zone 13 times, with his longest score from scrimmage being 91 yards. Of this draft class, LaFell was the second-longest tenured player behind Greg Hardy.
Armanti Edwards, WR, Appalachian State (3rd Round, 89th Overall): It can be argued the reason for Edwards' failing as a receiver was based on the fact the Panthers reached for him in the draft. Carolina traded back into the third round because the coaches and front office staff were impressed by him. In the end, the move was a terrible mistake. He did not pan out as a return specialist or a wide receiver. He was released in 2013 and brought in by Cleveland where he rejoined former Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.
Eric Norwood, DE, South Carolina (4th Round, 124th Overall): Norwood played in 28 games where he recorded 11 tackles and a sack over two seasons. He has not been on an NFL roster the past two years and looks to be done in the league.
Greg Hardy, DE, Mississippi (6th Round, 175th Overall): Hands down the best player to come out of this class for the Panthers. Hardy started off as a backup and when he was given the chance to be a full-time starter, he did not disappoint. After spending the last three seasons a starting defensive end opposite Charles Johnson, Hardy has increased his sack total and established himself as one of the best pass-rushers in the game.
Currently, he is still on the roster as the team's choice for the franchise tag. He should command a nice pay raise soon, but for now, he will play for $13.1 million during the 2014 season.
David Gettis, WR, Baylor (6th Round, 198th Overall): Gettis showed promise as a rookie, catching 37 passes for 508 yards and three scores. Considering he did that with a patchwork group of quarterbacks, there was reason for optimism when Cam Newton was drafted the following year. However, injuries derailed Getttis' career and he has been a non-factor since.
Jordan Pugh, S, Texas A&M (6th Round, 202nd Overall): Pugh spent two seasons with Carolina before joining the Washington Redskins in 2012. His 27 tackles through 27 games with the Panthers were nothing to get excited about and he seems to be a career backup.
Tony Pike, QB, Cincinnati (6th Round, 204th Overall): Pike's career only lasted 12 attempts. Despite the number of quarterbacks rotating in and out of Carolina in 2010, Pike was never called upon to start. His only action came as a backup where he completed six passes for 47 yards. He couldn't stay on a NFL roster afterward.
R.J. Stanford, CB, Utah (7th Round, 223rd Overall): Stanford has made more out of his time with Miami than he ever did in Carolina. He didn't play a down in 2010 and saw action in 13 games the following year. He went to the Dolphins prior to the 2012 season and is there today.
Robert McClain, CB, Connecticut (7th Round, 249th Overall): McClain developed into a bit of a journeyman after leaving Carolina. He was with the Jacksonville Jaguars before being cut and caught on with the Atlanta Falcons in 2012. He seems to have found his niche with the division rival as he has registered 120 tackles and an interception in two years with Atlanta.
It's hard to believe that out of 10 players, only two made some kind of contribution to the Panthers. It's even harder to believe that only one still remains. This draft seemed to signal the end of the Marty Hurney era in Carolina and with a draft as underwhelming as this one, it's easy to see why. The only way the class can really be salvaged is if Hardy is signed to an extension and he keeps producing at a high level.
Everette Brown, DE, Florida State (2nd Round, 43rd Overall): A draft day bust in every sense of the word. Brown was expected to replace the absence and production left behind by Julius Peppers, but he never lived up to his potential. Brown started in just three of the 28 games he played in and put up an unimpressive stat line of 47 tackles and six sacks. He spent last season in Dallas.
Sherrod Martin, CB, Troy (2nd Round, 59th Overall): Martin was the second-longest tenured player from this draft class until he departed the Panthers after the 2012 season. His numbers were decent for a player who split time between being a starter and backup. His final tally was 184 tackles and seven interceptions.
Corvey Irvin, DT, Georgia (3rd Round, 93rd Overall): Irvin had a lot of potential coming out of Georgia and it seemed he would be a difference-maker in Carolina. Unfortunately, his career with the Panthers lasted two games and he has spent the past three seasons with Detroit, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay and Dallas.
Mike Goodson, RB, Texas A&M (4th Round, 111th Overall): Goodson showed promise as a kick returner and backup running back for Carolina from 2009-2011. However, injuries limited him and he was traded away to Oakland. For the most part, his post-Carolina career has been uneventful and he could be coming to the end of his career when he joins the New York Jets in camp.
Tony Fiammetta, FB, Syracuse (4th Round, 128th Overall): Regarded more as a blocking fullback than anything else, Fiammetta played two seasons with the Panthers before being signed by Dallas. Aside from being a no-show with New England during the 2012 season, Fiammetta has found playing time since 2009 and has been a part of an offense's rushing attack with him helping to lead the way.
Duke Robinson, OG, Oklahoma (5th Round, 163rd Overall): Robinson's career never really got started as evidenced by his player profile. He never cracked the starting offense and seemed to only appear during meaningless preseason games.
Captain Munnerlyn, CB, South Carolina (7th Round, 216th Overall): Had Munnerlyn re-signed with Carolina this past offseason, he would be the only player left from this draft. He was almost gone after the 2012 season but turned an impressive 2013 campaign into a contract with the Minnesota Vikings. While he was not an elite player, he was the best player from this draft to go to Carolina. It's a shame it took the front office seven rounds to finally get it right.
By all accounts this class was just terrible. Only Munnerlyn turned in a player one can describe as efficient and a case could be made for Martin. While Marty Hurney showed a knack for the home run pick in the first round as the team's general manager, his picks in rounds two through seven were questionable at times.