Panthers Draft 2002
By Negative Man
I personally think that Marty Hurney is a very good General Manager. Not a great general manager, but a very good one. With the okay of our fearless leaders – Jaxon and James – I'm going to attempt to make that case over the next few weeks/months. I welcome all comments/compliments/complaints.
I want to start by going year-by-year on the Panthers’ drafts. Later, I’ll go year-by-year on free agents. And I want to offer one pause here to myself and others: I “think” Marty is a very good GM. I’m not completely sure. These posts will be my way of figuring it out for myself. And I hope they will help you, in some way, give you a perspective to figure it out for yourselves.
2002 Draft Marty Hurney Panthers' Draft:
Pick One – DE Julius Peppers, North Carolina. I was SO happy in 2001 to see this pick pop up on my computer. There had been a lot of pressure to choose QB Joey Harrington. We had so many needs this year. And more importantly, how many first round picks had we blown in the past? QB Kerry Collins, RB Tim Biakabutuka, WR Rae Carruth, DE Jason Peter, 1999 (forfeit for DE Sean Gilbert). Those are just the obvious. The fact is, that by 2002, we’d never had a 1st round Pro Bowler. (2001’s Dan Morgan later made it).
My take was: go safe! Especially in spending that much money with the #2 pick. Say what you want about Julius Peppers. But he’s made a lot of plays and a lot of Pro Bowls in his stay with the Panthers. I’d take him over Harrington, OT Mike Williams, CB Quentin Jammer, DT Ryan Sims, OT Bryant McKinnie (who is actually pretty good), and S Roy Williams, who were our other choices.
Pick Two – RB DeShaun Foster, UCLA… DeShaun had his moments, especially in the playoffs. We needed a RB, and Hurney rolled the dice. He could’ve had, randomly, OC Andre Gurode (very good player), DE Kalimba Edwards, OT Mike pearson, DT Larry Tripplett, and future All-Pro Center LeCharles Bentley. But then, Bentley tore an ACL in his year five, and he never returned to the league. That’s a good reminder about the draft; there are so many variables: coaching, chemistry, injuries, etc. Foster was a solid choice under the circumstances, and he definitely helped the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2004
Pick Three – (Traded Down) LB Will Witherspoon, Georgia. I will have to say, I talked with my Dad the day after this draft, and I said “Who is this guy?!?”… Well, Witherspoon suited up and showed up every game, and he played at a high level for the Panthers and later did the same for St. Louis and Philadelphia. He could make plays sideline to sideline, and he averaged for the Panthers 90 tackles a season, 2 interceptions, 2 sacks, and lots of tackles beyond the line of scrimmage. (check the stats if you want). All I know is that when I watched or listened to the games, the announcers were always saying “Witherspoon in on the tackle!”.
Years later, Marty Hurney would have to make a choice between resigning Dan Morgan or Will Witherspoon. Marty chose Morgan. And as much as I said “Who is this guy?!?” when Witherspoon was drafted, I also said to my Dad that free-agent day “That was a mistake.” In any case, Witherspoon was an incredible 3rd round choice.
Round Four – S Dante Wesley, Arkansas Pine-Bluff… Another “who is this guy?” pick. He’s a special teams all-star. A solid choice in the 4th round, though the Panthers could’ve had DE Alex Brown, QB David Garrard, or LB Larry Foote. They also could’ve chosen a lot of guys who are no longer in the NFL. Wesley is still in the NFL. Good pick.
Later picks – QB Randy Fasani, FB Kyle Johnson, TE Keith Heinrich, OG Pete Campion, CB Brad Franklin.
None of these guys made any kind of impact on the team. Kyle Johnson did okay with Denver later.
We missed out on DE Aaron Kampmann, LB Andra Davis, and LB Scott Fujita in the later rounds. Please raise your hand if you would’ve known in 2002 to have drafted these guys.
Summary: All-Pro Julius Peppers, very solid starter LB Will Witherspoon, key cog in Super Bowl Run RB DeShaun Foster, Solid special teamer Dante Wesley.
In a very poorly-talented 2002 NFL draft, Marty Hurney found a huge gold nugget, another one that would later get away, and two other players who would make significant contributions in the following years. Grade: B+
And not too shabby for a guy who was running his first NFL draft, and who had the guts to resist the pressure to grab Joey Harrington and to draft two “Who are those guys?” guys.
More to come….
-- Negative Man