Top Five Carolina Draft Picks From the 2010s
The NFL Draft always brings excitement and a fresh start to all 32 teams. No matter if you're pick one, or pick 254, anyone has the chance to join a team and change their future. There is a lot of pressure when selecting draft picks because if you draft a bust your fans will be angry and disappointed, but if you draft a gem, your team is set for a decade.
Below are five guys who were drafted by the Panthers that were able to come in and not only make a positive impact immediately, but for several years in some cases.
5. WR D.J. Moore - 2018, Round 1, Pick 28
When Moore was drafted, Panthers fans thought they were getting "Steve Smith 2.0". Moore was bringing speed and reliable hands to an offense that desperately needed a new No. 1 receiver. So far he has shown his worth and seems to be worth a first round pick. 2019 has been his best season yet as he finished with 87 catches for 1,175 yards and four touchdowns.
4. CB Josh Norman - 2012, Round 5, Pick 143
Football fans always get excited over later round draft picks because of the thrill of landing a gem. The Panthers found a diamond with Josh Norman out of Coastal Carolina in the fifth round. Norman would spend his first four seasons in the NFL with Carolina as he developed into a superstar corner. Being in Ron Rivera's defense, Norman flourished into the league's best cornerback. Norman's stats with the Panthers may have not been eye-popping as he only had seven interceptions in four seasons, but it was his ability to take away opposing teams primary receivers and forcing offenses to throw to other guys that made him a star.
Panthers fans will always remember his physical battles with Odell Beckham Jr. They were fun to watch, but sometimes went a little too far and led to fights. Norman never backed down from a challenge and still plays that way as he is now with the Buffalo Bills.
3. Christian McCaffrey - 2017, Round 1, Pick 8
College football fans hadn't seen a guy like Christian McCaffrey since Reggie Bush in the 2000s. At Stanford, McCaffrey showed the world his potential as he sped past every defender he ever encountered. Since joining the NFL, McCaffrey has been a top five running back and has provided versatility to the Panthers offense by being able to beat defenses in both the running and passing game. In 2019, McCaffrey led the NFL in total yards from scrimmage with 2,392 yards which ranked as third best in NFL history. He finished third in the NFL in rushing yards (1,387) and led all running backs in receiving yards (1,005), which made him just the third player to ever accomplish that feat. McCaffrey brings excitement to every play he is involved in and has the chance to score every time he touches the ball. Look for McCaffrey to continue this level of play and potentially adding an MVP trophy to his mantel.
2. Cam Newton - 2011, Round 1, Pick 1
Whenever a team has the number one pick in the NFL Draft, it comes with a lot of pressure. Pressure to make the a decision that will either set your franchise up for the next ten years, or keep you picking in the top five. Drafting Cam Newton was the right decision. After winning a National Championship at Auburn, all 32 NFL teams would have loved to bring in Newton.
From his very first game with the Carolina, to his last, Newton put the team on his back and the city on his shoulders as he was willing to do whatever it took to help the Panthers win. As a rookie, he won Offensive Rookie of the Year as he set a new NFL single-season record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with fourteen. He also became the first player in NFL history to throw for over 4,000 yards while also rushing for over 500 yards.
2015 was the year it all clicked for Carolina as Newton led the Panthers to a 15-1 record and an appearance in the Super Bowl as he won the league MVP and Offense Player of the Year.
Newton is also the franchise leader in passing yards (29,041), passing touchdowns (182), and rushing touchdowns (580. In fact, his 58 rushing touchdowns are the most ever by a quarterback in NFL history.
Most people believe that Cam Newton is the greatest Panther ever and it will be a bit odd to see him in another uniform for the rest of his career.
1. Luke Kuechly - 2012, Round 1, Pick 9
Kuechly spend his entire eight-year career in Carolina after being drafted in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Right from his very first game, Kuechly let the entire NFL know that he would be a force that all opposing teams should game-plan around. In his rookie season, Kuechly would lead the NFL in tackles with 164 as he would go on to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. In 2013, he won NFL Defensive Player of the Year as he continued to help the Panthers win more games and build a legitimate championship defense. He was the anchor that lead the 2014-2015 Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance which also earned him a spot on the NFL's 2010 All-Decade Team.
Due to concussions, Kuechly decided to retire at the age of 28 this past January. He finished his career with 1,092 tackles, 12.5 sacks, and 18 interceptions to go along with earning a spot in the Pro Bowl seven consecutive seasons from 2013-2019. Kuechly will go down as one of the best linebackers to ever play in the NFL and is arguably the best to ever wear a Carolina Panthers jersey.
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