Panthers need better draft spot in April

By Jeff Linville -

With the Carolina Panthers struggling through 10 games, fans are diving off the bandwagon like it’s a runaway train.

But maybe a rough season is just what the Panthers need for their future success.

For the past three years, the Panthers have won the NFC South, which dropped them down the draft order to the 20s. All the big names were gone by the time Carolina picked.

If Atlanta goes on to win the division, and the Panthers limp to, oh say, 5-11, then the team could wind up picking more around the 10th spot.

There are only two ways to raise a team’s draft spot. Lose more games or made an expensive trade.

Look at this year’s draft when Jared Goff and Carson Wentz were expected to go at the top. The Rams and the Eagles had to pay handsomely to move up to the top spots.

First, Philly gave up #8, a third-rounder, a fourth-rounder, a 2017 first-rounder and 2018 second-rounder. The Browns gave up the pick that landed Wentz and a conditional fifth-rounder.

The Rams got the Titans’ first-overall pick (2016), a fourth-round pick (2016) and a sixth-round pick (2016).

The Rams gave up a whole lot: first-round pick (2016), two second-round picks (2016), a third-round pick (2016), a first-round pick (2017) and another third-round pick (2017).

Even trades further down the draft board are costly.

In 2010, the Panthers traded away a second-round pick for a selection near the end of the third round. Then the team picked tweener Armanti Edwards, whom many draft prognosticators believed would still have been around when the Panthers picked in the fourth round.

That 2010 pick of Edwards is made worse by two factors. First, Mel Kiper’s big board had LB NaVorro Bowman, TE Jimmy Graham and CB Alterraun Verner listed, so the Panthers chose poorly. Second, with the Panthers struggling in 2010, that traded second-round pick turned out to be the 33rd pick in the 2011.

In effect, to trade for one year sooner, the team gave up 60 spots from 93 to 33.

Sometimes having a bad season is the best thing that can happen to a team.

The 2001 Panthers were a horrible 1-15. However, that led to the team having a high draft pick and getting Julius Peppers in the first round, DeShaun Foster at the start of the second round, Will Witherspoon in the third round and Dante Wesley in the fourth.

Peppers became a star, Foster and Witherspoon starters and Wesley a nickel back.

In 2010, the Panthers were 2-14, which gave them the right to draft Cam Newton.

In 2012, the Panthers were a respectable 7-9, but didn’t make the playoffs. The team picked 14th and got Star Lotuleilei in the first round, then Kawann Short in the second.

Iin 2014, the Panthers had a very similar record at 7-8-1, but that was good enough to win the NFC South. Despite only winning seven games, the Panthers fell in the draft to the 25th pick. Same number of wins, but 11 spots lower.

The Panthers wanted to draft a tackle in 2015, but a whopping six were taken in the first 24 picks. The team didn’t feel there was any tackle left worthy of a first-round pick.

The same thing happened in 2014 when the Panthers wanted either Zack Martin or Taylor Lewan to fall to them in the draft, but 28th is a long way to drop.

This year, Mel Kiper as Cam Robinson, Mike McGlinchey and Roderick Johnson expected to go between 20-25. If the Panthers don’t make the playoffs, then a pick in the teens (or even top 10) would seem like a good place to grab one of those guys.

By Jeff Linville

Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

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