Carolina's 2010 season will live in infamy as 'the lame duck year'. Bad seasons can't kill teams, but an organization is in trouble if apathy sets in. Across the front office, the team, and the fan base there was a feeling of apathy -- everyone just wanted the season to be over. Are there any positives to pull from the lame duck year? Today we cast an eye back on the draft class, and where they are today.
John Fox was going to leave, the future of the franchise was impossible to predict, and yet the Panthers moved forward with one of the most aggressive draft classes. They selected multiple quarterbacks, made bold trades, and built a team without any clear knowledge of how a new coach would operate. Granted, a team can't sit idly by and ignore their board because a new coach might like the player, but it was the aggressiveness Carolina displayed that was ultimately their downfall.
Jimmy Clausen, QB -- Notre Dame (2nd round, 48th overall)
There's still a team out there for Jimmy Clausen, and it's a matter of time before he finds it. The quiet footnote to the team's recent offensive revitalization is that Clausen's preseason numbers have been solid with Ron Rivera at the helm. He's not suited for the Coryell-inspired offense, but in the proper West Coast system he could still be an effective NFL quarterback.
Stuck in an impossible situation, Jimmy was unable to make the most of it. As such, his legacy in Carolina may be best remembered as the catalyst that brought Cam Newton to the Panthers. Cemented as the third-string quarterback, there's only one grade to fairly give this selection.
Brandon LaFell, WR -- LSU (3rd round, 78th overall)
While Clausen was unable to make the most of his chances, LaFell did what he could with the scraps thrown his way. Displaying a knack as a downfield blocker, the strides he's made as a possession receiver are dramatic. Over the last three years his hands have improved, his route running is better, and when it's third down LaFell becomes the team's most clutch receiver.
The epitome of his development came last year against the New Orleans Saints, in a game where the defense became double-teaming him, electing to leave Steve Smith in single coverage. As a player who is still honing his craft, the majority of fans continue to be too harsh on LaFell as the team's legitimate second receiver. When you find that player in the third round, that's good value -- especially when receivers taken before him are struggling to find their place.
Armanti Edwards, QB -- Appalachian State (3rd round, 89th overall -- acquired via trade)
No player from the 2010 class was put in a worse position that Armanti Edwards. A converted quarterback, he arrived in a dumpster fire and did get much support in making the position change. As a local hero, and professional he's put up with being the odd man out with aplomb, but there comes a point where that only goes so far.
If Edwards was entering the 2013 draft someone would take a chance on him as a small-school version of Russell Wilson -- however, being taken in 2010 and subsequently taking snaps solely at WR for three years has put him in a difficult situation. Perhaps he finds a home in the league, but it's almost assuredly not in Carolina.
Eric Norwood, OLB -- South Carolina (4th round, 124th overall)
Sometimes the 'tweener' moniker is unfair, and other times it fits like a glove. An effective pass rusher at South Carolina, Norwood couldn't find a place in John Fox's 4-3 defense, and continued to ineffective at the NFL level. This was the case of a player getting selected for his talent, but being unable to cement himself in a lineup because of his position.
Now player in the Arena league, Norwood was another wasted pick in this terrible class.
Greg Hardy, DE -- Ole Miss (6th round, 175th overall)
Finally a hit. If this class ends up being known for Brandon LaFell and Greg Hardy -- then it's a lot easier to justify.
This was a pick that was all risk or reward -- precisely what a late-round pick should be. Hardy was an impact player in college, but there were questions whether he had the ability to make it at the next level. There were off-field questions, and maturity issues, but in taking a risk the Panthers hit a home run.
Developing as more than a third-down rush specialist, Hardy has evolved his game, becoming one of the team's biggest defensive forces. When you get that from a 6th rounder, then it's something special.
David Gettis, WR -- Baylor (6th round, 198th overall)
After showing a great deal of promise his rookie season, Gettis has been sidelined with a series of injuries -- unable to build off his hot start.
A long-striding deep threat, his skills would be perfect in the current Panthers' offense, but unless he can get back on the field he'll become another wasted pick in 2010.
Jordan Pugh, CB -- Texas A&M (6th round, 202nd overall)
He's still on an active roster -- that's about the best you can say about the pick. Pugh never managed to make an impact in Carolina, but it feels like the team gave up on him too early, especially in light of their CB situation now.
Tony Pike, QB -- Cincinnati (6th round, 204th overall)
It's unclear what the point of Pike's selection was. It's almost as if Marty Hurney was grooming the Panthers to run a West Coast Offense by selecting two quarterbacks with less-than-ideal arm strength.
Pike is the perfect example of pre-draft hype going terribly wrong, and misrepresenting NFL opinion by a mile. Outlets evaluated Pike as a 2-3rd round pick, whose lack of arm strength was overshadowed by his football IQ and accuracy. He failed to make any impact for the Panthers whatsoever, and will go down with Randy Fasani and Stefan LeFors as great failed quarterbacks in Carolina draft history.
R.J. Stanford, CB -- Utah (7th round, 223rd overall)
It's hard to see what the Panthers (didn't) see in their three late-round CBs in 2010. They didn't manage to crack the rotation here, but all three have found homes on other teams, and are valuable contributors. It's a shame, especially given the issues in Carolina at the position.
Robert McClain, CB -- Connecticut (7th round, 249th overall)
This one is maddening. Not only has McClain become a vital depth cornerback for another team, but he's done so for the division rival Atlanta Falcons. I can't even bare to write about this one anymore, because the Panthers' draft failure is their benefit.