In fact, they didn't even pick a single player until the 48th overall selection, mid-way through the second round. The Panthers then had two picks in the second round; their 78th place, and the New England Patriots' 89th selection.
However, in that limited number and quality of draft choices, Carolina capitalized as much as they possibly could, and reeled in three offensively talented players to add support to an offense that ranked 21st out of 32 teams in terms of points-per-game in the 2009-2010 regular season.
The Panthers' first selection of Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen caused an immediate stir, not just because QB was not originally one of the Panthers' need positions but also because many considered Clausen one of the top three quarterbacksyet 47 other teams let him slip through their fingers.
Carolina was quick to jump on the talented passer, staying "on the clock" for just three minutes before announcing their selection of Clausen. Their convinced approach was not a mistake, however. Clausen, despite playing on a Notre Dame team that was mediocre throughout his time there, put up excellent statistics, recording a 68 percent completion percentage. Additionally, he threw for a grand total of 3,722 yards, and tossed up 28 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
With Clausen's amazing free-fall concluded, in the end both he and the Panthers were happy. Clausen will come into a quarterback situation that is uncertain, at the least, and should have a legitimate shot at becoming the full-time starter as early as the 2011-2012 season if he performs to his full potential. Clausen will enter training camp competing with projected-starter Matt Moore and second-year NFL-er Jim Cantwell, out of Louisville.
This is an unproven group fresh off a trade of longtime-starter, and common scapegoat, Jake Delhomme to the Cleveland Browns, and they probably needed another star to help fill out the depth chart. The Panthers themselves were thrilled, saying they almost traded up to the 33rd position to reach him, then backed out and were still able to draft their target.
Following this interesting pick, the Panthers then picked up LSU wide receiver Brandon LaFell in a slightly less media-covered but more needed selection. With Muhsin Muhammed's cut from the roster, the Panthers were left with just disgruntled superstar Steve Smith and a few other underperforming players at the position. LaFell's addition, simply put, was a great idea.
First of all, LaFell's receiving performance with the Tigers over his last two seasons at the college level were spectacular, finishing second in the SEC with 63 receptions for 929 yards and eight touchdowns in 2008, and then topping it off with 57 receptions for 792 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. LaFell averaged over 14 yards-per-catch over this span and caught over two TDs every three games, on average.
The Panthers' first two picks created what could eventually become a very dangerous QB-WR tandem of rookies. Then, with their latest pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, Carolina picked up a local player that could be a quarterback or a receiver!
Appalachian State quarterback/wide receiver/halfback Armanti Edwards is also going to be a Panther starting next year. Edwards was eighth in the FCS (and second in the Southern Conference) with 3,291 passing yards and third in the conference with 679 rushing yards (and this was with conference rushing leader Devon Moore on the same team) in 2009, additionally racking up 30 overall touchdowns.
The year before, Edwards was 12th in the FBS (and tops in the conference) with 2,902 passing yards, and was also third in the Southern Conference with 941 rushing yards. All in all, he also recorded 41 touchdowns.
The year before that (in 2007), Edwards was third in the Southern Conference with 1,948 passing yards, and was second in the conference with 1,588 rushing yards. He racked up 38 TDs in that season.
In 2006, Edwards was second in the Southern Conference with 2,251 passing yards, third in the conference with 1,153 rushing yards gained, and gained 30 overall touchdowns.
Take in all of that, and then add this: Edwards, in his four years as starter, was a two-time FCS national champion and in his second championship-lacking season (last year), Edwards still led the Mountaineers to the semi-finals.
It's obviously very tough to say that Armanti Edwards will likely go down as one of the best dual-position performers in FCS (formerly Division 1-AA) history, and his drop all the way to the 89th selection could probably be credited almost solely to his fairly unknown performances. In fact, as a commenter pointed out, Edwards is currently the only player in history to record over 10,000 passing yards and 4,000 rushing yards in a college career.
Edwards won't have to adjust much, either, considering Boone, North Carolina, home of the Appalachian State Mountaineers, is only a two-hour drive from the Panthers' Bank of America stadium in Charlotte.
All in all, I would say the Panthers far exceeded anyone's expectations for a team coming off a simply average 8-8 season followed by a complete roster meltdown, reducing the roster to a frail skeleton, and then lacking a single first round pick.
While they certainly didn't address nearly all of their holes, the Panthers added three players at key positions, and still have plenty more picks in the later rounds today to go after some diamonds-in-the-rough at their required positions.
...And it's pretty hard to argue with a secondand third-round haul of Jimmy Clausen, Brandon LaFell, and Armanti Edwards.
Update: To read the recap of the Panthers' selections in the fourth through seventh rounds, click the link below:
Mark Jones is currently Bleacher Report's featured columnist and community leader for the Carolina Hurricanes, and also diligently follows several other Carolina sports teams as well, like the Panthers. In his 20 months so far with the site, he has written over 185 articles and received over 125,000 total reads.
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