Continuing our recount of the Carolina’s Panthers draft classes, we go into this article heading into the offseason after the Panthers first Super Bowl appearance. With that said, general manager Marty Hurney and head coach John Fox were coming off their first two solid drafts together, and would continue to lay some ground work for a successful season in 2004.
The best pick in the 2003 draft was the first, when Fox grabbed a physical, aggressive corner in Chris Gamble with the 28th overall pick of the draft. Gamble made an instant impact, nabbing six picks as a rookie, and then adding on another seven the next year. All in all, Gamble was a difference maker on the Carolina defense all the way until 2012, and ended his career with a very respectable twenty-seven picks, the franchise record. The team’s second round pick, wide out Keary Colbert, started off his career with humongous promise, catching five touchdowns and grabbing 754 yards receiving in the process. Unfortunately, his career dropped off drastically after his rookie season and was gone by 2008.
In the remainder of the draft, Carolina found a gem in third round guard Travelle Wharton, who has started over a hundred games in the NFL, and even stepped in to help Carolina last year. His time with the team might be over, and recent news suggests he might retire, but it can’t be denied that he was a great third round selection for this team. For late round picks, the Panthers actually found some contributors. After missing his rookie season, wide out Drew Carter helped out as a situational target until 2007, when he had over 500 yards receiving with four touchdown grabs. Linebacker Sean Tufts busted, and tight end Michael Gains never really shined.
Reasoning: The team found two long-term starters in this draft in the first three rounds, which is exactly what you want when drafting. They even found a guy in the late rounds that came in for a season and helped out significantly. The only things that keep this draft from getting in the “A” category is they failed to find a contributor in the second, and while both Gamble and Wharton were consistent starters for the team for a decade, neither are ever going to be mentioned as elite or even great players of the decade, like past picks such as Jordan Gross or Julius Peppers.