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Mythbusters—Matt Gilmartin Edition: Do the Carolina Panthers Draft Poorly?

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Mythbusters—Matt Gilmartin Edition: Do the Carolina Panthers Draft Poorly?

The Carolina Panthers have been criticized for drafting plenty of busts since head coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney took over in 2002.  To be fair, let's take a brief look at Panthers draft history since Fox and Hurney came aboard.  I'll be judging the players based on their performance with the Panthers.  Also I haven't gone past the fourth round of any draft class to make this shorter—it's already going to be long enough as it is.  I also haven't included the 2008 draft class because they haven't gotten to show what they can do yet.   

2002:

1st round, 2nd overall: DE Julius Peppers

C'mon, this is Julius Peppers.  Is an explaination really needed?  Good, I didn't think so.  All I need to say about Peppers is this: He's one of the most dangerous defensive players in the NFL when he's right.  Just forget about last season.  If last night's game against the Colts was any indication, he's back.

Verdict: DEFINITELY NOT A BUST

2nd round, 34th overall: RB DeShaun Foster

Foster could go both ways.  In his best season he rushed for 879 yards and three touchdowns.  But he also received for 34 catches, 372 yards, and a touchdown. 

But over his ongoing six-year career, he's rushed for only 3,336 yards and ten touchdowns.  That's an average of 556 yards and roughly two touchdowns per year.

In addition, Foster has lost more fumbles (11) than he's scored rushing touchdowns.  Add in his receiving touchdowns, and he's still only lost three fewer fumbles than he's scored touchdowns.  You know what the verdict will be.

Verdict: DEFINITELY A BUST            

3rd round, 73rd overall: LB Will Witherspoon

From 2002-2005, Witherspoon made 354 tackles, eight sacks, defended 28 passes, and had seven interceptions.  That comes to a season avg of roughly 89 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions, and nine deflections. 

In his best season he compiled 103 tackles, three sacks, eight defended passes, and four picks. 

It's just too bad he's on the Rams now—I wish we still had him.  But on the other hand, we have the most robust linebacking corps we've had in years.  All he would do is ride the bench as he hoped that Jon Beason would get hurt so he could get some playing time. 

Verdict: NOT A BUST    

4th round, 100th overall: CB Dante Wesley   

This is an easy one.  Wesley has only started two games in his career, with the most recent one being back in 2003.  In five years with the Panthers, Wesley has only recorded 72 tackles, one sack, and 12 deflections.  His season average stats would be about 14 tackles, less than one sack, and two deflections.

In his best year he made only 17 tackles and eight deflections.

Verdict: BUST

2003:

1st round, 8th overall: OT Jordan Gross

The Panthers currently have Gross slapped with the franchise tag.  That alone shows what they think of him.  In addition, a Charlotte Observer writer who covers the Panthers once said that Gross is the best offensive lineman the Panthers have ever had.

For once, the only conclusion I can make based on his stats is that he is an ironman—Gross hasn't missed a single start in his five-year NFL/Panthers career.  He has 80 starts in his career. 

Considering Gross is currently the Panthers' franchise player and he has never missed a game in his career, his bust status is pretty obvious.

Verdict: DEFINITELY NOT A BUST

3rd round, 76th overall: TE Mike Seidman

This guy is the definition of the term "bust".  He was drafted relatively early, yet so far his career looks like it's the achievement of an inept seventh-round pick.

Seidman last played a real season in 2004.  But even then he only had 13 grabs for 123 yards and two touchdowns in 16 games—and only six starts.

In 2005 he saw limited action in 12 games and one start.  However, he didn't even make a catch that season.

In 2006 Seidman was somehow still with the Panthers, and he started three games—yet he still didn't do anything. 

In 2007 he was out of football.

Currently, based on his profile picture on the NFL's website, it looks as if he is a Colt.  But he is probably a third- or fourth-teamer. 

All of this is more than enough to determine his bust status.

Verdict: DEFINITELY A BUST

3rd round, 82nd overall: CB Ricky Manning, Jr

Panthers fans had a love/hate relationship with Manning.  We loved him during the 2003 run to the Super Bowl.  He made multiple timely plays to keep the wheels turning.  At all other times we hated him. 

In his three-year Panthers career from 2003-2005, Manning accumulated 164 tackles, 13 deflections, and nine interceptions, yet no sacks.  His season average was about 55 tackles, four deflections, and three interceptions.                      

In 2004, his most accomplished year as a Panther, Manning totaled 66 tackles, five deflections, and four picks. 

As good as Manning was during the 2003 playoffs and in 2004, there's no doubt about his bust status, especially considering he was a mid-third round pick.

Verdict: BUST

4th round, 119th overall: S Colin Branch

Branch's career was very short—he only played from 2003-2006.

In his best season Branch registered 55 tackles, five deflections, and three interceptions.  But that's as good as it gets.

Branch didn't play so much as one minute in 2006.  And he didn't get more than 19 tackles or one interception in either of his other two seasons.

I can easily see why we let this guy go after the 2006 season.

Verdict: BUST 

2004:      

1st round, 28th overall: CB Chris Gamble

Gamble is one of the best cornerbacks the Panthers have ever had, if not the best.

His average single-season stats: about 66 tackles, seven deflections, and roughly four interceptions.   

Gamble's best single season saw him notch 75 tackles, five deflections, and seven interceptions.

Gamble is widely considered by Panthers fans to be one of the best cornerbacks in team history.  That alone solidifies his bust status.

Verdict: DEFINITELY NOT A BUST

3rd round, 94th overall: OL Travelle Wharton

Boy, it's hard to find stats for offensive linemen.  The only stats you can find on them are starts and games played. 

But nonetheless of the stats available on him, from one angle Wharton looks somewhat fragile because he's missed 20 regular season starts in his four-year career.  But at the same it's not like he's a Dan Morgan—he's somewhere in between Morgan and Jordan Gross.

But from another angle Wharton is starting in the new, redone offensive line the Panthers have this season.  So the Panthers obviously think pretty highly of him.

Verdict: NOT A BUST

2005:     

1st round, 14th overall: LB Thomas Davis

Davis has been scrutinized by fans and the media since the Panthers drafted him.  Fans and local media alike have said that he shouldn't start.  I disagree.

The last two years Davis has done well.  In 2006 he recorded 88 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and six deflections.  In '07 he posted 88 tackles, three sacks, five deflections, and one interception.  Davis's rookie year was different, but he only started one game. 

Davis is still penciled in as the starter at one of the outside linebacker positions.  With the linebacking corps as good and deep as it is, that has to count for something.

Verdict: NOT A BUST

2nd round, 54th overall: RB Eric Shelton

Shelton is one of the biggest busts in Panthers history—during and before Fox and Hurney's tenure. 

Shelton never impressed, not even in the preseason against opponent's second- and third-teamers.  In the 2007 preseason he rushed for 46 yards on 12 carries—he didn't score, though.

If Shelton couldn't even do anything in the preseason while playing against reserves way down on opponents' depth charts, how could he possibly have succeeded in the regular season playing against opponents' best players?  

Verdict: DEFINITELY A BUST 

3rd round, 79th overall: OL Evan Mathis

Mathis' only full season was 2006.  He started all 16 games that year.  But in his other two seasons, he hasn't started, and he's only played in 10 games combined.  He either can't stay healthy or he just can't play.   

Right now Mathis is listed as the backup left guard on the Panthers' depth chart.  I can see why.   

Verdict: BUST

4th round, 121st overall: QB Stefan LeFors

His profile on the NFL's website says that he was with the Panthers for one year—2005.  I can't blame the Panthers for releasing him.  LeFors never looked anywhere near good in the preseason—there was no way he could have lasted in regular season NFL games.

Verdict: BUST

2006:

1st round, 27th overall: RB DeAngelo Williams

Williams hasn't had much of a chance to prove himself yet.  DeShaun Foster had been the starter since he was drafted—until now.

Williams got plenty of carries in the 2006 and '07 preseasons, however.  While he never really looked like a true first round draft pick either of those years, he did provide some glimpses of what he was capable of.  But in Williams' defense, the offensive line was lousy each of those years and probably didn't open up many holes for him.

Likely as the result of a poor offensive line, in Williams' best season, he rushed for 717 yards and four touchdowns.    

But this season already looks very different. 

Williams had rushed for 55 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries by the time five minutes had ticked off the clock in the first quarter of the Panthers' first preseason game against the Colts last night. 

He got lots of help from the new, improved offensive line, as it opened up gigantic holes to run through and pushed the Colts' defensive line back several yards on every play—which he used to his advantage.  In any case, Williams looked absolutely stellar in the limited action he got. 

2nd round, 58th overall: CB Richard Marshall

Marshall is still inexperienced (2008 will be his third season), but his performance in his first two years doesn't show it. 

In first two years, he had a season average of about 86 tackles, one sack, 11 deflections, and three interceptions—not bad for a very young cornerback who only started 14 games combined during those years. 

Marshall did well his first two years in the NFL.  It will be fun to watch him get better in years to come.

Verdict: NOT A BUST

3rd round, 88th overall: LB James Anderson

Anderson has been, if I'm really generous, okay in his first two years.  He's only started three games so far, and he only has 38 tackles and two deflections in his career—that's it—no sacks or interceptions.

As of right now, he's listed as Thomas Davis's backup at left outside linebacker—but it's not fair to make a decision about him yet—he hasn't gotten a real chance to show what he cand do. 

Verdict: THE JURY'S STILL OUT      

4th round, 121st overall: S Nate Salley

Heading into his third NFL season, Salley has yet to start a regular season game.  And he has only made four tackles in his career.  Like Anderson, until he distinguishes himself one way or the other, I'll remain neutral.

Verdict: THE JURY'S STILL OUT        

2007:       

1st round, 25th overall: LB Jon Beason

As a rookie in 2007 Beason stepped up in place of the oft-injured Dan Morgan and proved himself a total beast.  He accumulated 140 tackles, six pass deflections, and one interception.  I think I heard somewhere that his 140 tackles set a new Panthers team record—that wouldn't surprise me. 

Simply put, he replaced Dan Morgan.  The Panthers were so impressed with Beason that they released Morgan and made him the starter at middle linebacker.

There's no question about he isn't a bust—he was the anchor of the Panthers defense in 2007.        

Verdict: DEFINITELY NOT A BUST

2nd round, 45th overall: WR Dwayne Jarrett

Heading into the 2007 season, the Panthers hoped Jarrett could be the No.2 receiver they so badly needed to take pressure off of star Steve Smith.  But sometimes things go wrong.

Jarrett played in only four regular season games in 2007 and didn't make a name for himself at all.  He never made more than three catches for about 40 yards in any regular season contest.

As I explaied in another article, this season will determine whether Jarrett remains with the team for 2009.  Jarrett knows this, and it should motivate him to be far better this season than he was last year. 

Okay, I'm going to go out on a limb here: I think Dwayne Jarrett could be the biggest sleeper in the NFL this year if he gets enough chances to make catches.  He already looks to have improved significantly—last night against the Colts he made three grabs for 43 yards in limited action.  I remember reading in the Charlotte Observer this morning that all three of his catches were in traffic, too. 

While I'm really tempted to label Jarrett as a bust already because of how terrible his rookie campaign was, I'll remain undecided until the end of this season.

Verdict: THE JURY'S STILL OUT

2nd round, 59th overall: C Ryan Kalil

I bet you can see what's coming: no real stats for Kalil because he's an offensive lineman.  But, again, he has three starts and six games played—but he was just a rookie and he backed someone up for most of the year. 

This year he will start at center, which, by itself, shows that the Panthers like him, since he's part of their new, upgraded offensive line.  And that offensive line looked amazing last night. 

It's tough to make a final decision about Kalil so early in his career, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt—after all, the Panthers coaching staff has obviously seen something in him.

Verdict: NOT A BUST

3rd round, 83rd overall: DE Charles Johnson

Johnson is too inexperienced and he has gotten too few chances to show what he's capable of to make a fair decision about him.  I mean, he's only played in three games (with two starts) and only has two tackles in those games.  Plus this is only his second year.  That's just not enough to base a reasonable decision upon.

Verdict: THE JURY'S STILL OUT

4th round, 118th overall: WR Ryne Robinson

Despite what his formal position is, Robinson really was only responsible for returning kickoffs and punts last year—and he was poor at it. 

But, in his defense, the Panthers' kickoff and punt coverage was dysmal both ways.  So that basically means Robinson had little protection to work with.  Plus, he was a rookie with—obviously—no NFL experience.  Nobody could have done anything without any know-how or protection—not even Devin Hester! 

Ryne Robinson hasn't gotten enough of a chance to show what he can do.

Verdict: THE JURY'S STILL OUT

It just occurred to me that I was working on this part of the article for so long I'd forgotten the question I was trying to answer: Have Panthers head coach and general manager drafted well since they came to the organization in 2002?

To answer this question, let's take a look at the table below:

Player Name

Bust

Non-Bust

Undecided

Julius Peppers

 

 

DeShaun Foster

 

 

Will Witherspoon

 

 

Dante Wesley

 

 

Jordan Gross

 

 

Mike Seidman

 

 

Ricky Manning, Jr

 

 

Colin Branch

 

 

Chris Gamble

 

 

Travelle Wharton

 

 

Thomas Davis

 

 

Eric Shelton

 

 

Evan Mathis

 

 

Stefan LeFors

 

 

DeAngelo Williams

 

 

Richard Marshall

 

 

James Anderson

 

 

Nate Salley

 

 

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