Draft Day: Carolina Panthers' Nine Best Selections
Since 1995 the Carolina Panthers have drafted 120 times in 15 drafts. While it's incredibly difficult to do, I'm going give you the nine best selections.
Why nine you ask? Simply because five isn't enough and because nine is the number of years it took the Panthers to make it to the Super Bowl.
No. 9: Mike Minter
Mike "The After Dinner" Minter, as Chris Berman labeled, him embodies the term team player. Drafted 56th overall in the second round of the 1997 NFL Draft out of Nebraska, he played for 10 seasons and played in 148 games.
He was a leader, on and off the field. He totaled 782 tackles, 587 of them solo in his career. Over that same career he snagged seventeen interceptions, and four of those were returned for touchdowns.
A stand-up player and a stand-up man, Mike Minter will always be associated with the Carolina Panthers, and rightly so. Minter is currently the Head of Football Operations at First Assembly Christian School in Concord, North Carolina.
No. 8: Mike Rucker
Mike Rucker, the second Mike on the list, is another man who will always be mentioned when Panthers greats are ranked. He was taken 38th overall in the second round of the 1999 NFL Draft out of Missouri.
With 55.5 career sacks, he was a formidable foe for offensive lines across the NFC South and the league. He played defensive end opposite Julius Peppers for most of his career and played in 139 games. All as a Carolina Panther.
With 416 tackles, 16 forced fumbles, 29 passes deflected and an interception, it's safe to say he will be missed, but not by opposing offensive coordinators who slept a little more soundly when he announced his retirement following the 2007 season.
Rucker was heard calling three of the Panthers 2009 preseason games. He also founded the Vision Real Estate Group, with it's headquarters located in Charlotte, North Carolina.
No. 7: Muhsin Muhammad
The man they call "Moose." His first name, by the way, is pronounced Moo-sin. In the second round with the 43rd overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers chose the Michigan State alum, and despite a three year stint in Chicago, Muhammad has been a Panther ever since.
Muhammad holds the record for longest reception in Superbowl history when he caught the 85 yard pass from Jake Delhomme in Superbowl XXXVIII.
In 202 career games, Muhammad has posted 860 receptions, 62 of which have been touchdowns. It isn't solely his on-field performance that landed him on this list.
It's his off the field actions as well. A true "character" player if there ever was one, Muhammad is a well known philanthropist and was the 1999 Carolina Panthers' Man of the Year.
His own M2 Foundation, his work with the "Back to Nature" program as well as the Muscular Dystrophy Association in Charlotte.
He is a spokesman for the "Men for Change Organization," which helps generate money for impoverished women's shelters.
In 2007 Muhammad was given a special reward by his former high school for donating $50,000 worth of equipment to the schools fitness center, which was then named in his honor.
He adopted two children from Ethiopia, Maddon and Journey, in 2007. If ever there has been a role model on and off the field it is Muhsin Muhammad.
No. 6: Thomas Davis
In the 2005 NFL Draft, the Panthers made good on their first round selection taking Georgia Bulldog standout Thomas Davis with the 14th overall pick.
In his career he has played in 69 games. 2009 appeared to be Davis' true breakout season, only to have an injury shortened it. Davis was drafted as a safety and converted to linebacker as a rookie.
It's safe to say the conversion was a wise move. In his 69 games Davis has amassed 390 tackles, 11 sacks and three interceptions.
If the Panthers re-sign Davis for 2010 and beyond, it is very possible that he could work his way even farther up this list.
No. 5: Jonathan Stewart
One half of the backfield known as Double Trouble, the thirteenth overall selection of the 2008 NFL Draft out of Oregon, has proved to be worth his weight in gold.
Since his arrival before the 2008 season, the Panthers are 20-12 with Stewart in the backfield, and he has played all 32 regular season games.
In his short but productive career he averages a healthy 4.9 yards a carry, going on 405 carries and 1,969 yards. He scored 10 touchdowns in both his seasons and added a receiving touchdown to that list late in the 2009 season.
Stewart has proved his worth and his toughness, playing through injuries throughout 2009 and making an impact as a rookie following toe surgery prior to the 2008 Draft.
Stewart again had offseason surgery, but the surgery was a successful one and he is expected to be ready for Panthers mini-camp in May.
No. 4: DeAngelo Williams
When the Carolina Panthers drafted DeAngelo Williams out of Memphis with the 27th selection of the 2006 NFL Draft, many Panthers fans let out a sigh of relief.
This was the man who could cure the running game woes of the Panthers, who had struggled mightily since the departure of Stephen Davis and the less than stellar attempt to convert DeShaun Foster into a power back by John Fox.
Were they ever right. Though only 13 of his 58 career games were played that year, it was relatively easy to see that the Panthers had something special in the Arkansas native and holder of NCAA all-purpose yards record (with 7.573 and 34 100 yard games).
With Foster still the starter in Carolina for Williams' first two years, he only compiled five touchdowns. The previous two seasons though he has ran for 25, putting his career total to 30.
Williams has already broken franchise records for rushing touchdowns in a season (18), overall touchdowns in a season (20), rushing yards in a single season with 1,515, and for rushing touchdowns in a single game (4).
The sky appears to be the limit for the versatile Williams who averages an impressive 5.1 yards a carry on 754 attempts and 3,850 yards gained. He is another name that could sit atop this list in the years to come.
No. 3: Julius Peppers
North Carolina native and North Carolina Tar Heel Julius Peppers had to be including on this list. We all know that.
The second overall pick of the 2002 NFL Draft came in with high expectations. He was a fresh face and a change of pace that was much needed in Carolina following a 1-15 season, in which the last 15 games were lost.
Despite 2007 being his worst, Peppers has been a dominant force and a game changer. With 81 career sacks, 382 career tackles, six interceptions and two touchdowns, Peppers has drawn double coverage and reeked havoc on opposing backfields for eight seasons.
Since the 2007 season, Julius Peppers has been a hot topic in Carolina as well as the rest of the league. His poor performance in the 2007 season, his magical rebound season in 2008 coupled with his apparent desire to play elsewhere caused much conversation.
Before the 2009 season, the Panthers franchised Peppers and kept him. 2009 was far from a bad year for the 6 foot 7, 283 pound Peppers.
The offseason though has brought discomfort to many in Panther country. To others it has brought upon the thought of trading him away for a draft pick for 2010 or the future.
Will Peppers remain and have a storybook ending, or will he depart and break the hearts of many a Panthers fan? Only time will tell.
No. 2: Steve Smith
Looking back at the 2001 NFL Draft, it's safe to say that Steve Smith was a steal at the 77th overall selection in the third round. The former Utah Ute has been a playmaker in Carolina for what seems like forever.
In his rookie season he didn't catch a single touchdown, but he took one punt return back for a touchdown and two kickoffs were returned for TD's as well.
Those touchdowns were simply a sign of things to come. Eight seasons into his career he has taken four total punts, and those two kickoffs back for touchdowns, on top of two rushing touchdowns and 50 receiving touchdowns bringing his career total to 58.
Smith does have a reputation as a hot-head, and it has been said he plays "with a chip on his shoulder." I'd advise you not to tell him that though.
Steve Smith is a completely different man off the field. Smith is involved with the Athlete's United for Youth, a charitable organization that provides educational, programmatic and structured support to youth living in under-served communities.
He holds a near 50 percent interest in Velocity Sports Performance, located in Charlotte. In 2008 Smith began working as a Financial Planning Intern at Morgan Stanley's Charlotte office.
Smith is the ultimate contrast in styles, on and off the field, but one thing is for sure, no matter if he plays anywhere else in his career, he will always be a Panther.
No. 1: Jon Beason
In only his third year as a Panther, Jon Beason tops this list. The 25th overall selection in 2007, the Panthers invested quite a bit into this University of Miami Hurricane.
It has already paid off. Beason is already a team captain and plays with the heart, desire, and determination of one.
In 2009 Beason set a Carolina Panthers single season record, recording 169 tackles. He broke the previous record of 160 tackles, set by, you guessed it, Jon Beason as a rookie in 2007.
His career total of 420 tackles and three sacks (all three of which were recorded in the 2009 season), a forced fumble and seven interceptions has him well on his way to being a Panthers record holder in more categories.
For years to come Panthers fans have something to look forward too when the defense takes the field and number 52 is in the middle.
The Honorable Mentions
I wouldn't feel right leaving these guys out, but the list was nine. These four though deserve honorable mentions: Kris Jenkins, Chris Gamble, Jordan Gross, and Travelle Wharton.