One week from Thursday, the football world will come together within the walls of Radio City Music Hall for the 2011 NFL Draft. Each of the so called experts, ( Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, Don Banks, Pat Kirwan, Mike Mayock, and hundreds more...) have their own ideas of what the Panthers should and will do with the #1 overall pick. Most seem to think that Cam Newton will be booking a flight to Charlotte next Friday morning, but the truth is only a select few really know which way the Panthers will go.
For weeks, we have all guessed, based on rumors and "inside information" just what it is that our beloved Panthers will do. Again, nobody really knows. But maybe, just maybe, we can look back to past drafts to gain some insight on whats really happening.
More after the jump !
Only once in the John Fox / Marty Hurney era have the Panthers shown their cards early leaving little little doubt who they would pick. In his first year there was little doubt that the defensive guru John Fox,who just took over a team which he would publicly challenge their toughness and effort, would draft the #1 defensive player available in DE Julius Peppers. Sure enough, when the card was turned in, Julius made the short drive down I-85 trading in his Tarheel Blue #49 for the Panther Blue #90. That team needed a player who would help immediately. A player who would have an instant impact. They left a highly rated QB on the board ( understanding that rookie QB's rarely come with the talent an abilities to make them Day 1 starters ) and went with a defensive player who could get after the QB and be a disruptive force in the opponents backfield.
In 2003, prior to the draft, the "experts" were predicting the Panthers would address a percieved weakness at CB by selecting Marcus Trufant or maybe QB Kyle Boler and begin grooming him for the future behind starter Rodney Pete. Little did they, or we for that matter, know about a certain Cajun QB with fire in his soul named Jake Delhomme. When the card was turned in the Panthers selected LT Jordan Gross form the University Of Utah, solidifying their offensive line and finding the player who will continue to protect the blind side of the 2011 Panthers QB.
In 2004 the mocks and predictions were filled with names such as S / CB Matt Ware, WR Rashaun Woods, TE Ben Troupe....all names that surely didn't become Panthers. That's not to say they wouldn't have, but when Chris Gamble began to fall the Panthers began making calls trying to move uo to get him. They got their man selecting the Ohio State Buckeye with the 28th overall selection.
In 2005, having lost several members of the o-line to free agency, most looked for the Panthers to reload at that position. Names like Jammal Brown and Alex Barron topped most of the mocks. There was an occasional mention of the need for a WR. Moose has left for the windy city via free agency. WR's Troy Williamson and Mark Clayton were most commonly thought to be in the Panthers sights. Out of nowhere came Thomas Davis. The S / LB hybrid out of the University of Georgia. Simply put, this was the Michael Vick pick. He was a player who had not only the speed to catch Vick, but the power to hit him hard enough to make him think twice about leaving the pocket.
OT Marcus McNeil, LB DeMeco Ryans, S Donte' Whitner and RB LenDale White were some of the names most associated with the Panthers pick in 2006. Instead, the Panther grabbed a tiger by his tail selecting DeAngelo Williams out of Memphis. Already having Desean Foster but also having lost Stephen Davis the Panthers once again employed the 2-headed monster theme at the RB position. Powerful, smash mouth football was the way of John Fox. In his system, you just never could have enough running backs.
In 2007 we heard Levi Brown, Reggie Nelson, Greg Olsen and Michael Grififn were popular choices for the Panthers picking at # 12. Not once did we ever see the name Jon Beason associated with the Panthers in the pre-draft publications. The Jets came calling upon Marth Hurney, wanting to book a trip to book a trip to Revis Island. Trading back, the Panthers grabbed Beason, planning to play him along side of fellow Miami alum Dan Morgan. When Morgan got hurt, Beason slid inside and begain his reign as the leader of the Panthers defense. Can you really imagin the Panthers without Beason. If a defensive player could ever be the true "face of the franchise" Beason has become exactly that !
Mel Kiper had DT Sedrick Ellis Carolina bound in 2008. Scouts Inc. predicted DE Calias Campbell. Draft King said it would be DE Derrick Harvey. Walter Football was saying Rashad Mendenhall. Nobody picked up on the fact that just weeks before the draft, Jonathon Stewart was in Charlotte. Not for a pre-draft workout, but instead for surgery on a big toe that had nagged him throught his senior year. That surgery was, by coincidence, performed by one of the Panthers team doctors, possibly giving the team a comfort level with his injury that scared other teams away. Late in the 1st round came the real shock.......noboby and I mean nobody forsaw the Cats jumping back into round 1, giving up a future 1st round pick to select Jeff Otah. Otah has had problems with injuries, especially a balky knee, but when he's healthy he's a road grader of a blocker that DOUBLE TROUBLE loves to run behind. By far, this was Hurney's best draft.
In 2009, having traded their 1st round pick the year before, nobody really knew what to expect from the Panthers. For the 2nd time in as many years, the Panthers mortgaged their future to move up so they could select DE Everette Brown. Considered undersized by most experts, Brown began to slide on draft night. Possibly feeling the pressure of Julius Peppers wanting out of Carolina, the team made the deal. After the draft the common opinion was that the Panthers had reached when they didn't need to for a player that has still yet to prove himself in the NFL.
Last year, Hurney was at it again. Restricted by owner Jerry Richardson in free agency and having dumped nearly a quarter of the roster freeing them from expensive back loaded contracts, the Panthers youth movement was in full swing. Unexpectedly the golden domer from Notre Dame, Jimmy Clausen, fell to the Panthers in round 2. Many had predicted that it would have actually been his teamate, Golden Tate that wound up in Panther Blue. In true BPA form, remaining true to their board, they took Clausen. Then Came Brandon LaFell and the most controversial draft day trade / pick in team history....Armanti Edwards.
So here's the final word on all of this rhetoric. Marty Hurney has only once in 8 years, shown his hand prior to draft day. No he has never been faced with the #1 pick where no team picks in front on him, but he has also never been able to potentially trade such a highly valued pick. Why would he show his hand so readliy by telling the world of his love for Cam Newton....or any player. With all his faults he's a much better poker player than most give him credit for. It's much more fun to keep everont guessing, spreading rumors and mis-information......and potentially convincing Buffalo, Cincy or Arizona that in order to guarentee they get their man, they are going to have to trade up. In a year where there is no sure fire # 1 pick, it may not cost as much to make the trade, but it will still cost them something ! My gut feeling is they trade with Buffalo. Move back to #3 and regain the 2nd round pick they traded to the Patriots last year in the Armanti Edwards trade.
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