Continuing with our series on Panthers draft gems and busts we turn now to the gems of the Panthers 1997 draft. I don't have any specific definition for a 'gem'. In fact we have two type of gems to choose from in this draft. We have an early pick that became a long-time starter and a fan favorite. We also have a late round pick that became a quality starter for many years.
At the end of the series we will vote for our biggest gem and bust in Panther franchise history.
So here's three 'gem' picks for the 1997 draft to choose from:
2 (56) S Mike Minter
Minter puts up some stiff competition. He spent his entire 10 year career with the Panthers and was a leader on and off the field. His career stats: 818 tackles, 11 sacks, 17 INTs, 11 FF and 71 PDs. I thought Minter deserved to be in the Panthers Hall on Honor if simply for his loyalty and leadership.
Two more options ...after the jump...
7 (228) TE Kris Mangum
Mangum played 10 seasons for the Panthers, the first six backing up Wesley Walls. Mangum logged 151 receptions for 1,4024 yards and 9 TEs. Though Mangum was hardly the pass catcher Walls was he was a smart player who made his living being a very good blocker.
Here's a write up on the selection shortly after the draft:
Wait, it's a Wesley Walls clone! Mangum grew up and went to school at Ole Miss (like Walls), he's about 6-5 and 250 pounds (like Walls) and he can catch the ball (like Walls). Unfortunately, he is also slow as molasses. But he knows the game and has a brother in the NFL -- Chicago defensive back John Mangum -- so he'll have a decent chance to stick.
6 (189) DL Matt Finkes
Just kidding on Finkes being a 'gem'! Finkes is the only other pick to choose from unless I dip into the 'bust' list but come on, against Minter? Finkes apparently never made it out of camp as he only played in 8 games in the NFL, in '97 with the Jets.
I should mention the Panthers traded their 1997 5th rounder (157) to Oakland for WR/PR Raghid 'Rocket' Ismail. Ismail had his best season as a pro with the Panthers in 1998:
In 1998, Ismail recorded 69 receptions for 1,024 yards, two yards short of doubling his previous career high, and eight touchdowns.
But I digress...So we have two choices for a 'gem' of the 1997 draft:
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