What a difference a year makes. A franchise seemingly going nowhere after a disastrous 2010 was reinvigorated by first overall pick Cam Newton. It’s clear to all his dynamic playing style brought the Carolina Panthers back to life.
But why did they need that injection of energy? As has become the custom recently, we’re going to look at the draft picks the Panthers made between 2008 and 2010 and give them a grade between +2.0 and -2.0 (in 0.5 increments) that depends upon:
• Where they were drafted
• Their performance
• Their contribution (how many snaps their team got out of them)
• Other factors such as unforeseen injuries and conditions that could not have been accounted for
Let’s take a look at how Carolina drafted.
+2.0: You’ve just found Tom Brady in the 6th round
They didn’t, but they’re happy enough to have “stumbled” upon Cam Newton in 2011.
+1.5: Getting much more than you bargained for!
They’ve come close on occasion, but they haven’t quite found the super value you look for in every draft pick.
+1.0: The scouts nailed it!
Greg Hardy, DE (175th overall pick in 2010): Hardy looked good as a rookie, but you wondered if he could hold up if he was required to. Well, a year later we got the answer as he picked up an impressive 45 combined sacks, hits and hurries. 904 snaps a year may be too many for him (he wore down over the season with his final four games easily his least productive), but this pick was a great value.
+0.5: Never hurts to find a solid contributor
Jonathan Stewart, RB (13th overall pick in 2008): Something of a tease, we often wonder how Stewart could hold up if more was asked of him. Nonetheless, he was the most elusive back in all of football and a runner you can count on to pick up yards.
Dan Connor, LB (74th overall pick in 2008): With a stacked group of linebackers, it always seemed hard for the Panthers to get the most out of a downhill thumper like Connor. His 816 snaps over his Panther career are low (even for a two down player) but his grade (+21.8) more than makes this pick a success. The Cowboys thought enough of him to let him compete for a starting ILB role in their 3-4 defense this year.
Gary Barnidge, TE (141st overall pick in 2008): He may have missed all of last year, but in the 514 snaps he saw between 2008 and 2010, Barnidge looked like the kind of every-down tight end who deserved more opportunity than he found.
Geoff Schwartz, G (241st overall pick in 2008): It’s something of a surprise the Panthers let Schwartz walk this offseason even considering the coaching change that occured after 2010. This is because his 2010 was good enough to suggest he could be one of the better guards in the league. Out of sight, out of mind after missing 2011? Getting one very good year of starting from a seventh round pick is always a positive.
Captain Munnerlyn, CB (216th overall pick in 2009): The only real hit from the 2009 class, Munnerlyn has outperformed his drafting even after a 2011 that had its bad moments. Versatile enough to play in the slot and a contributor on special teams, he also may own one of the best names in the NFL.
0.0: Nothing ventured, nothing gained (It could have been worse)
Jeff Otah, T (19th overall pick in 2008): Having played only 239 snaps since 2009 is something of a concern, no doubt. However, Otah has looked like an above-average tackle when he’s been able to get on the field. He’d grade out as a positive if not for that lack of playing time over the last two years.
Nick Hayden, DT (181st overall pick in 2008): After three years, 819 defensive snaps and a combined PFF grade of -18.3, Hayden was finally let go.
Hilee Taylor, DT (221st overall pick in 2008): Taylor managed 91 snaps in his two seasons with the Panthers. While he didn’t look terrible on the field, it’s interesting that even with a depleted defensive tackle group he never caught on.
Mackenzy Bernadeau, G (250th overall pick in 2008): While getting plenty of time in 2009 and 2010, Bernadeau was something of a liability. You can’t expect to hit on two guards in the seventh round of the same draft can you?
Mike Goodson, RB (111th overall pick in 2009): He would be graded higher but for those pesky ball-security issues. Goodson has displayed an ability to make people miss, but was always going to struggle for carries with Williams and Stewart healthy. He was recently traded to Oakland for offensive tackle Bruce Campbell – himself a former fourth round pick.
Tony Fiametta, FB (128th overall pick in 2009): An awfully high spot to select a fullback, especially one that isn’t dominant.
Brandon LaFell, WR (78th overall pick in 2010): After a very tough rookie year, LaFell took a step forward as a sophomore. You’re still left looking for more from a third round pick, but there’s reason to be optimistic with him giving he is capable of the sublime (now he just needs to add more consistency to his game).
Eric Norwood, DE (124th overall pick in 2010): Norwood is walking dangerous close to the negative grades, with a general inability to get on the field or contribute when he does.
David Gettis, WR (198th overall pick in 2010): Gettis missed his second season after a horrid first year. The Panthers asked too much from him as a rookie sixth rounder.
Jordan Pugh, S (202nd overall pick in 2010): Carolina has got a good look at Pugh and should have probably realized that without a huge step forward in 2012, he’s not cut out for a role even as a defensive back in their dime package.
Tony Pike, QB (204th overall pick in 2010): He didn’t turn out to be Tom Brady, despite seeing limited action (22 snaps) as a rookie. His time in Carolina ended with him waived after suffering an injury to his throwing shoulder.
R.J. Stanford, CB (223rd overall pick in 2010): Got on the field for 257 snaps on defense and earned a -4.3 grade in that time. Stranger things have happened, but it’s hard to see him making a positive contribution on a regular basis.
Robert McClain, CB (249th overall pick in 2010): He got some game time as a rookie (134 snaps) and looked decent enough on special teams (eight tackles) but a new coaching staff didn’t buy into him and he was gone a year later.
-0.5: That pick was not put to good use
Charles Godfrey, S (67th overall pick in 2008): You’d be happy to get a four-year starter in the third round, but given the performances of Godfrey, that’s not the case. Consistently one of the worst tackling safeties in the league, Godfrey is that type of player the Panthers need to upgrade on and quickly.
Sherrod Martin, S (59th overall pick in 2009): Martin is coming off his worst year as a pro where he filled up a lowlight reel. The good news is his 2010 film should give Panthers fans hope that he could be a useful long term contributor. More sound in coverage than Charles Godfrey, his biggest problem is (much like Godfrey) that he misses too many tackles.
Corvey Irvin, DT (93rd overall pick in 2009): Just 56 snaps in a Panthers outfit. They wanted more bang for their buck than that after spending his rookie year on injured reserve and some time on the practice squad.
Duke Robinson, G (163rd overall pick in 2009): Wasn’t Robinson meant to be something of a steal? He never saw the field and spent his time battling weight and injury issues. Unsuccessfully.
Jimmy Clausen, QB (48th overall pick in 2010): It’s easy to be harsh to Clausen as he stunk it up as a rookie on a bad team. However, you don’t draft quarterbacks for a one-year performance, and Clausen (rightly) never got another chance because a better prospect came along. Not necessarily a terrible pick and certainly not a good one, Clausen was, to some degree, a victim of circumstance.
-1.0: What a waste!
Everette Brown, DE (43rd overall pick in 2009): Even when you forget the Panthers gave up a future first round pick for Brown, this doesn’t look good. As a rookie, Brown did get some pressure in limited action, but asked to do that on a bigger scale with a starting spot, he flopped and found himself cut just two years after being drafted.
Armanti Edwards, WR (89th overall pick in 2010): The Panthers gave up what would be a high second round pick for Edwards and in return so far they’ve got 38 snaps on offense. Neither wide receiver nor a quarterback and someone who doesn’t contribute in a big way on special teams, this was an utter waste of a pick.
-1.5: The scouts/ coaches failed, big time!
-2.0: You just drafted the love child of JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf!
There were no Russell/ Leaf hybrids to pick from.
It’s been an interesting few drafts from the Panthers. If you solely look at the talent they have found, they’ve done a pretty decent job. The 2008 class, in particular, was a home run in finding talent from first round through the seventh. But injuries and simply not giving players enough playing time, means Carolina hasn’t gotten as much as they probably could have out of some players. It can’t be helped that Jeff Otah has missed time hurt, but after watching players like Dan Connor and Geoff Schwartz leave in free agency without them ever really establishing themselves, you wonder what may have been. Regardless, Carolina does a good job of finding guys late in the draft and getting something out of them.