If you don’t learn from your history, you are doomed to repeat it. Fortunately for Panthers GM Marty Hurney, he has been consistent in hitting on his first-round draft picks. Names like Peppers, Beason and Gross are amongst the best prospects that Hurney and his personnel department have managed to secure on draft day over the past few years.
In 2011 however, we are entering uncharted waters with this general manager at the helm. The Panthers are in a state of flux as a football team. Several veteran players like Julius Peppers, Jake Delhomme and Muhsin Muhammad have moved on, paving the way for the youth movement on the roster. That is why this year more than ever it is crucial that the Panthers GM hits on the number one overall pick on April 28.
In later instalments of this series I will deal with the Carolina Panthers 2011 draft strategy and potential picks, but before that it is important to analyse the past—to discern patterns in both positions selected and what schools they were drafted from.
If the past truly is the best indicator of what is to come, this study will pull back the curtain and allow me to predict with reasonable accuracy what prospects the Carolina Panthers will be targeting on draft weekend.
Trend No. 1: Hurney’s Aggressive Mentality
In each of the past three drafts, Marty Hurney has traded up. This aggressive approach started in 2008 when he traded back up to the No. 19 pick to draft mammoth offensive tackle Jeff Otah from Pitt. The deal involved giving up next year’s first round pick to the Eagles, but this deal was a fruitful one as the Panthers did make the playoffs in 2008.
In 2009, the pattern continued as Hurney traded up to get Everette Brown from Florida State. This move did not turn out so well for the team, and in truth moves like these are double-edged swords—sometimes genius, sometimes completely foolish.
In 2011, Hurney could adopt a similar style as reports have emerged recently that he is desperate to re-acquire a second-round pick. Trading down is a possibility, but don’t be shocked if Hurney uses the top pick in the third round to get back into the mid- to late second. The trend suggests it will be the case.
Trend No. 2: Character Is King
It is no secret that the Panthers brass values character very highly when evaluating a prospect. College players whose pasts are littered with incidents of misbehaviour or run-ins with the law during their time on campus are sometimes removed from the draft board or downgraded significantly.
This strategy has generally worked well for Hurney, whose background checks yield players with good personalities with a mentality to work hard from day one.
Trend No. 3: Favourite College Programmes
In looking at the draft picks made by the team between 2006 and 2010, it is evident that eight schools stand out as places of “repeat business” during the NFL Draft, namely South Carolina, Texas A&M, Georgia, Oregon, Penn State, Miami (FL), USC and Virginia Tech. Each of these schools has had at least two players drafted by the Panthers since 2006.
When you further break it down by conference, the Panthers tend to draft players from the more reputable conferences. This is not a surprise; most NFL teams would do the same. For the sake of completeness, here is a quick breakdown of the number of players drafted by conference:
SEC – 7 players
ACC – 7 players
Big 12 – 5 players
Big Ten – 5 players
Big East – 5 players
Pac-10 – 5 players
The No. 1 pick will be a telling sign as to what direction Hurney and Rivera want to take the franchise going forward. Hurney likes to wheel and deal and I am firmly of the belief that he will listen to offers until the 10-minute clock has almost reached 0:00.
If it is to be a quarterback and we trust these trends that I have presented, then the pick should be Blaine Gabbert. Defensive line talent will be a target of Rivera and new defensive coordinator Sean McDermott as they begin the process of rebuilding the defense to suit their scheme. Then again, wide receiver (Green) and cornerback (Peterson) have to be in the conversation. This will be hotly debated until April 28 amongst the staff.
One thing is certain: the 2011 NFL Draft will be a significant stepping stone in the process to revive the Carolina Panthers as a franchise.