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Carolina Panthers: Best and worst draft picks

  • By David Ely
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In the days leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, will allow users to determine the best and worst draft picks for every team. We continue the proceedings with the team that owns the No. 14 overall pick in this year's draft, the Carolina Panthers.

Top picks

Steve Smith -- 2001 (No. 74 overall)
Smith burst onto the scene the first time he touched the ball in the NFL. He took the opening kickoff to the house for a 93-yard touchdown in the Panthers' 2001 opener, and it didn't take long for the Panthers to realize Smith wasn't just a one-trick return specialist. The wide receiver out of Utah quickly became one of the most dynamic playmakers in the game once he started playing full time. Smith is a two-time first-team All-Pro and a four-time Pro Bowl selection. Even though he's 5-foot-9, few players are better at jump balls -- just ask DeAngelo Hall. Not bad for a guy who once starred at Santa Monica College.
» 2001 NFL Draft

Julius Peppers -- 2002 (No. 2 overall)
Not many people outside of the Carolinas probably remember this, but there was a vocal faction leading up to the 2002 NFL Draft that felt the Panthers should take Oregon QB Joey Harrington. Good thing John Fox stuck to his defensive instincts. While Harrington flamed out in Detroit, Peppers emerged as one of the NFL's most dangerous pass rushers. Peppers posted 12 sacks his rookie season and had five other double-digit sack seasons in Carolina. A two-sport star at UNC, Peppers' athleticism made him unique among his peers. How he lost out on the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 2004 -- a season in which he scored two touchdowns in addition to his 11 sacks -- remains one of the sport's unsung travesties.
» 2002 NFL Draft

Cam Newton -- 2011 (No. 1 overall)
It's not too early to include Newton on this list. The man known as Ace Boogie, Swag Monster, Killa Cam redefined professional football in the Carolinas in one afternoon in Glendale, Ariz. nearly two years ago. Newton silenced his doubters with his record-setting debut and went on to post the greatest season by a rookie QB ever (4,051 passing yards, 35 total touchdowns and a record 14 rushing TDs by a quarterback.) And his much-maligned sophomore campaign actually wasn't as bad as people want you to believe. Newton cut down his turnovers -- he broke the franchise record for most passes without an interception -- and his passer rating improved in Year 2. The Panthers also ended the season on a four-game winning streak. Still not convinced Newton belongs here? Consider where the Panthers were before they drafted Ace. Carolina had only nine passing TDs in the 2010 season, and someone named Brian St. Pierre started a game under center that year. With Newton on board the Panthers nationally are relevant for the first time in their history. What else do you want from a No. 1 pick?
» 2011 NFL Draft | Photos: Newton through the years

Ryan Kalil -- 2007 (No. 59 overall)
When he's not keeping the Charlotte newspaper industry afloat, Kalil doubles as one of the game's top centers. Kalil made his first of three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances in 2009, and he likely would have made another this year had a foot injury not ended his season after just five games. A healthy Kalil anchored an offensive line that opened holes for one of the top rushing attacks in the NFL in 2011 -- Carolina rushed for 2,408 yards. Expect Kalil to be back to overpowering NFC defensive tackles this fall.
» 2007 NFL Draft

Jordan Gross -- 2003 (No. 8 overall)
Gross wasn't the most glamorous of picks in 2003, but it's not a coincidence that the Panthers made their lone Super Bowl once they plugged him in at left tackle. Gross has made two Pro Bowls and one first-team All-Pro team, but his true value lies in his durability. Gross has missed just nine games in his 10-year career, allowing the Panthers to focus on other areas of need knowing they were set at the left side.
» 2003 NFL Draft

Worst picks

Kerry Collins -- 1995 (No. 5 overall)
It's a sad state when a franchise's first draft pick in its history also qualifies as one of its worst, but that's what happened when the Panthers took the disappointing Kerry Collins in 1995. Collins' brief stint with the Panthers began with promise as he led Carolina to a trip to the NFC Championship Game in his first full season as a starter. Alas, it was all downhill from there. Denver Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski shattered Collins' jaw during a 1997 preseason game, and there were two instances in which Collins reportedly directed a racial slur at a teammate. Alcohol reportedly was involved. Flash forward a year later and Collins quit on the Panthers, benching himself. Collins rebounded to have a successful career and even led the New York Giants to a Super Bowl, but you'll be hard pressed to find a more disappointing franchise QB than Collins.
» 1995 NFL Draft

Tshimanga "Tim" Biakabutuka -- 1996 (No. 8 overall)
It took the Panthers some time to master the whole art of picking a good player in the first round thing. Biakabutuka electrified Big Ten fans during his final season at Michigan, but never was able to capture the same spark in Carolina. In fairness to Biakabutuka, knee injuries were a big reason why his career never took off. A torn ACL ended "Touchdown Tim's" rookie season after just four games, and Biakabutuka battled injuries for the rest of his short career. Biakabutuka never played more than 12 games in a season, and he finished his career with 14 touchdowns and 2,530 rushing yards. That's only 64 TDs and about 8,000 yards less than Eddie George in his career, and George only went off the board six picks after Biakabutuka.
» 1996 NFL Draft

Armanti Edwards -- 2010 (No. 89 overall)
Is it unfair to include a third-round pick on this list? Probably, but it's my list, and any Panthers fan will tell you that Armanti Edwards is Public Enemy No. 1 in Carolina. Call it a classic story of Local Boy Does Bad. Edwards was an intriguing prospect out of Appalachian State. He was a cult hero after the Mountaineers famously upset Michigan at The Big House, and he was the quintessential winner (App. State won back-to-back FCS championships with Edwards under center.) But Edwards hasn't adjusted to life as an NFL wide receiver/return man. Edwards hasn't sniffed the end zone on a single return, and his lone career highlight is an 82-yard catch this season. While it's not a shock to see a third-round pick struggle, the Panthers traded away a future second rounder to trade up and select Edwards. That pick ended up being the No. 33 overall pick in the 2011 draft. Everette Brown is not impressed by that trade.
» 2010 NFL Draft

Jason Peter -- 1998 (No. 14 overall)
The Panthers' early struggles in the first round continued with Peter in 1998 -- really they also tragically misfired in 1997 when they selected wide receiver Rae Carruth. Peter was out of the NFL after just four seasons and 7.5 sacks. The defensive lineman out of Nebraska was an utterly forgettable player. Try to think of one moment he had in the NFL. You can't. He didn't have one. Moving on.
» 1998 NFL Draft

Dwayne Jarrett -- 2007 (No. 45 overall)
What is it with USC receivers and quarterbacks being bad NFL players? Jarrett might be the poster boy for Trojan bust. He left Southern California as the school's all-time leader in career receptions (216) and the Pac-10 leader in career touchdowns (41). If only the likes of Oregon State and Washington played in the NFL, then maybe Jarrett would have lived up to his hype. Jarrett never became the No. 2 receiver the Panthers hoped to pair with Steve Smith, starting just three games in four seasons and never latching on with another team. Fun fact: Jarrett has more DUI arrests (two) than career touchdowns (one).
» 2007 NFL Draft

Follow David Ely on Twitter @David_Ely

Best and worst draft picks
April 3: Chiefs | Jaguars
April 4: Raiders | Eagles
April 5: Lions | Browns
April 8: Bills | Cardinals
April 9: Jets | Titans
April 10: Chargers | Dolphins
April 11: Bucs | Panthers
April 12: Rams| Saints
April 15: Cowboys | Steelers
April 16: Bears | Giants
April 17: Bengals| Redskins
April 18: Colts | Vikings
April 19: Packers | Seahawks
April 22: Broncos| Texans
April 23: Falcons| Patriots
April 24: 49ers| Ravens


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