Continuing our recap of past draft classes of the Carolina Panthers, we finally get into modern times, this time in the last year of longest tenured head coach John Fox, who entered this draft with general manager Marty Hurney following a mediocre 8-8 season. Fox desperately needed a good draft with rumors of him being on the hot seat, but that’s a difficult task without the luxury of a first round pick.
Still, Fox knew his team needed a quarterback, grabbing Jimmy Clausen with the second round pick. You usually hope that second round quarterbacks can wait and sit for a bit, but Clausen was thrown into the fire immediately, starting ten games, and throwing three picks for every touchdown. While Clausen was obviously a big flunk, we should try to see if the mindset behind it was correct. To spoil it for you, it wasn’t. To be fair, 2010 was a pretty terrible quarterback class, with its most successful products being Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, and John Skelton. But Clausen has incredibly small 9’ inch hands, and isn’t incredibly athletic. A similar athlete in Colt McCoy had 9.75’ inch hands and was the most accurate quarterback in college football, and Skelton had 9.5’ inch hands with great arm strength. Even the team’s sixth round pick Tony Pike who ended up busting had 10’ inch hands, was 6’6, and ran a 4.8 40 yard dash.
To help out Clausen, Carolina grabbed three wide receivers in the draft in Brandon LaFell and Armanti Edwards in the third round, and David Gettis in the sixth. An interesting thing to remember for fans entering this draft, the 6’3 LaFell was a solid contributor every year while in Carolina, and even 6’3” Gettis had 500 yards as a rookie. What did 5’11”, speed demon Edwards do? He had five catches in four years with the team. Those calling for Brandon Cooks or Odell Beckham instead of bigger targets like Martavis Bryant or Jordan Matthews should keep this in mind.
Before we get into the good, Carolina drafted three defensive backs in the last two rounds in Jordan Pugh, R.J. Stanford, and Robert McClain. None of them are still on the team, and none ever made a significant impact. Neither did fourth round pass rusher Eric Norwood, recording one sack in two years before being released.
Fortunately, the good in the draft was really good, with the Panthers getting a steal in Greg Hardy in the sixth round. After falling due to repetitive injuries in college, the team snagged the 34’ inch armed, super athlete Greg Hardy. Hardy exploded in 2012 with 11 sacks, and improved again last year with 15. Though his future with the team is iffy right now, he figures to be a huge difference maker in a defense that hopes to carry this team to a playoff win this year. Frankly, Hardy is the greatest Panther draft pick of all-time when you consider where he was taken.
Reasoning: The Panthers found one great player late in this draft in Hardy, and a key contributor in the middle rounds in LaFell, but all the other picks were busts. The failure to find any instant impact and more importantly, the failure of Jimmy Clausen to do anything to evoke confidence out of the Carolina fan base, spelled the end of John Fox.