As we prepare for this week’s NFL Draft, all of our communities are looking back at some of our biggest draft-take blunders. Where did we screw up the most?
As fans, writers, and arm-chair general managers of the Carolina Panthers, we have more than our fair share of moments where through our current lens of hindsight, it’s easy for us to look back and say “what the hell were we even thinking?”
Cam Newton vs. Blaine Gabbert
If there is one absolutely bone chilling monumental glacier of a thought that one could look back on, it is the thought of the Panthers buying into one of the most incredible cases of pre-draft hype and over discussion in history. The thought that Blaine Gabbert could even pull the door of the draft green room open for Cam Newton, at this point, seems like the ravings of a pure madman. Had the Panthers got caught up in it, it literally would have cost their franchise untold amounts of money and fans, and the NFL would be changed forever as Cam Newton lands elsewhere. No doubt the Titans, Jaguars, and Vikings would have loved to change their selections of Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, and Christian Ponder respectively.
My worst ever draft take
I once called Matt Kalil “a special talent and sure-fire Pro Bowler” in my pre-draft analysis of the 2012 NFL Draft. Luckily this was only shortly before Cat Scratch Reader brought me on as a contributor, so it was way way way too late to bring it up by the time Matt Kalil was brought here purely on the merit of his brother Ryan’s word, David Gettleman’s “kishkas”, and probably some unicorn dust straight to the skull.
The said... can I get some credit for my top three? I nailed David DeCastro, Andrew Luck, and Luke Kuechly as the absolute best players in that draft. Those are vindicated now as great choices. Speaking of the best linebacker to ever play in Charlotte...
“We don’t need a linebacker. We have Jon Beason.”
Spoken from many mouths to god’s ears as Luke Kuechly was selected by us with the No. 9 overall pick. It only turned out to be the best overall selection of the entire first round, no disrespect to a few names like the aforementioned Andrew Luck and David DeCastro, as well as Riley Reiff, Dont’a Hightower, and of course Fletcher Cox.
At the time of course, it made sense to say. We had no idea the best days of Jon Beason were abruptly and suddenly gone. This was a case of a team selecting someone they knew to wear the bluest of blue chips. Best player available over need. Thankfully, they did exactly that, and once again to toot my own horn... I said they should well before it happened.
The Panthers actual biggest miss in recent history
In the 2016 draft, following their Super Bowl run, the Panthers elected to choose a smaller school defensive tackle prospect with “a great first step” in Louisiana Tech defensive tackle Vernon Butler with the No. 31 overall pick. A case was made by many people, and confirmed today, that Derrick Henry should have been the pick (who ended up going at No. 45) as Jonathan Stewart was getting long in the tooth, and the clear talent of Henry was immense.
Butler is now on the fringes of the NFL, and Henry is arguably the league’s best running back. The ripple effect of course, is that certainly means Christian McCaffrey goes elsewhere the very next year, who when healthy, also makes his case for best running back. If you ask me though, with my full hindsight glasses on, I would have rather been holding a second year Henry and looking at the names selected after McCaffrey with a different perspective.