While Marty Hurney enters his 10th year as the Carolina Panther's GM, I recognize that he has made more than a few gaffes along the way, and I'm sure he would acknowledge as much. In fact, if I were to poll CSR nation(and I will), I have a suspicion that his work as GM during his stint here in Carolina would be looked down upon for the most part. I get it. I've had my own issues with some of his egregious decisions and so have you. But, what GM hasn't missed badly when it comes to the draft? The statistics will always expose this reality. Teams will continue to miss more than they hit on draft picks, and this is unlikely to substantially change moving forward. Contrary to where this post seems to be headed, I'm going to go in a completely different direction by concentrating on some of the more conspicuous examples of where Hurney went right in the top two rounds of three specific drafts that he's been in charge of over the last nine years.
With the 28th pick in the 2004 draft, the Carolina Panthers selected Chris Gamble, and, over the past seven years, he has quietly been staking his claim as the best cornerback the Panthers have ever had. Last season he continued his stellar career by having his best season yet, and was undeservedly snubbed by the Pro Bowl voters, much to the chagrin of the Panthers' fans that actually paid any attention to his overall performance. Unfortunately, it seems that Gamble consistently catches unfounded grief from this team's fan base as much as he fails to receive validation by the NFL media. This is a shame because I don't believe we truly appreciate how much of a home run this pick was. Do you know who was chosen with the very next selection(29) that year by the Falcons?
It was none other than Gamble's former teammate at Ohio State, Michael Jenkens. On a side note, I wish I could have been there to see them go at each other in practice. Personally, I'm betting that Gamble got the better of that battle based on what I've seen from their careers. Consider that Jenkins' most prolific season occurred in 2008 when he ended up with 777 total receiving yards. Let me briefly give you a production comparison of another wide receiver who was picked at the same 29th overall spot as Jenkins. His name is Hakeem Nicks and, as most of you know, he has been an integral part of the New York Giants success over the past three years, leading up to his breakout performances in the playoffs and this year's Super Bowl. In fact, Nicks had more receiving yards(790) in his rookie season than Jenkins had in any of his previous eight seasons, and additionally broke the thousand yard barrier in each of his last two seasons. Although I don't view Jenkins as a bust, he has never been any more than a number two wide receiver, which is a clear indicator that Hurney clearly made the right choice when he chose Chris Gamble to be a Panther.
How can we forget the draft that saw us get Deangelo Williams with the 27th pick? Even though some Panthers' fans cringed when they saw the figures in his recent multi-year deal to continue his role as the Panthers number one running back, I felt it was well deserved. Let's ponder for a moment that D-Will could have been passed over in favor of Joseph Addai, who was promptly picked two spots later by the Indianapolis Colts. If you were to compare these two running backs based on total yards alone, you would be selling yourself short. Although Williams has only 600 more total yards than Addai in the past six seasons, what stands out more than anything else is the fact that Williams has averaged a full yard more per carry(5.1) than Addai(4.1) over the course of their parallel careers. This is amazing when you consider the fact that Addai played on artificial turf with one of the best quarterbacks of this era. Additionally, Williams has averaged more yards per catch(7.9) than Addai(7.6) in those same six seasons. I wonder how many GMs would have picked Addai over Williams. We will never know the answer, but I sure am glad Hurney made the right decision.
Most of us know that this was the draft that we seemingly "stole" Dwayne Jarrett in the second round. I won't go any further than to say that many "experts" felt that the Panthers were fortunate he fell that far. Obviously, Hurney went in the wrong direction with that particular pick, so let's leave that behind and revisit what he did in the first round of the 2007 draft. Armed with the 14th pick, the Panthers decided to make a draft day deal with the New York Jets. In exchange for that same 14th pick, the Jets would give the Panthers their 1st(25), 2nd(59), and 5th(164) round selections. Of course, this trade allowed us to obtain the services of one Jon Beason, who is on his way to becoming known as the best Panthers linebacker of all-time. Only time will tell if that comes to fruition, but what I actually wanted to evaluate for a moment was the Ryan Kalil pick in the 2nd round.
Over the last four years, Kalil has been busy turning himself into one of the best centers in the league, which hasn't gone unnoticed within our fan base, nor has it been ignored among the NFL's most reliable analysts. The interesting thing about this second round pick, which falls in line with the theme of this post, is the fact that another center was taken immediately after Kalil. His name is Samson Satele, and I'll be completely honest with you, I had never heard of him until I began researching for this post. Because of how unknown he was to me, I was surprised to find out that he was a solid three year starter at both center and guard for the Dolphins(who drafted him) until he was traded to the Oakland Raiders in 2009, where he has remained to be a steady performer for the past two years. However solid this guy has been, he is no Ryan Kalil, and we can thank Mr. Hurney again for choosing the best center/player available.
As we approach this year's draft, let's remind ourselves that Hurney has made some very good decisions through the years and he will continue to do so in the future. His tenure as a GM for the Carolina Panthers will ultimately be judged by whether or not he can lead this team to the NFL promise land, and we all know what that is. Similarly, our new franchise quarterback, Cam Newton, will be judged by this same standard. Over the next decade, give or take a few years, Cam will be recognized as the Carolina Panthers' franchise quarterback, and will represent, to the highest degree, all that is right or wrong with Hurney and, ultimately, this organization. The level of talent that is placed around Cam will totally be on the shoulders of Marty. Conversely, what Cam does with that same talent will be his burden to bear. Together, they form the most important duo this organization has ever seen. The future is unequivocally in their hands, and from what I've seen so far, I like our chances. How about you?