As promised I'll be steering away from any single player for the fifth installment of your advent calendar. During my research for this project I've looked at just about every part of the Carolina Panthers, past and present. My internet homepage may as well be the Panthers All Time Roster. I'm constantly looking for any links with the numbers to bring you the best pieces I can to keep you reading on. Whilst trawling the history books for today's piece I searched our draft history, and therefore today we will be looking back at:
Carolina Panthers Last 5 Fifth Round Picks
Nobody expects to hit the jackpot with a fifth round pick, because if it was so obviously a jackpot they wouldn't have fallen to the fifth would they? It's not every year you land a Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, or a Robert Mathis. The best you can hope for is a decent starter to contribute to your side.
Over the years the Panthers have had some very questionable picks going way back to our first, Michael Senters in 1995. Randy Fasano is 2002, remember him? He played in four games, going 15-44, 171 yards, 0 TDs and 4 INTs. 2004 brought us wide receiver Drew Carter who ranked in the teams top 3 for catches, yards, and touchdowns in 2007. This was the same year we selected Dante Rosario, who took a memorable catch to beat the Chargers 26-24 in 2008 against the odds, only for his name to be displayed by Fox as the actress Rosario Dawson. The rest of the names are mostly forgettable, save maybe Jarrod Cooper who played in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Interestingly though the last five years has seen an upturn in production. Here's our last five:
- 2011 - Kealoha Pilares
- 2012 - Josh Norman
- 2013 - AJ Klein
- 2014 - Bene Benwikere
- 2015 - Cameron Artis-Payne
Ok so Pilares wasn't great, but he was valuable as a kick returner in 2011, averaging 25.7 yards per return and setting franchise records in the process. Versus the Lions in November 2011 he ran a kick-off 101 yards to the house. He continued to be used on special teams only the following year and was meant to be pushing for a roster spot in 2013 before tearing an ACL in preseason landing him on injured reserve before being cut. He's now a free agent but hopefully he can land somewhere and reignite his career.
AJ Klein is a solid guy to have on the roster, not a superstar but he can slip into the side when required and do a good job. He proved that in his rookie season, making his first start in place of Chase Blackburn against the 49ers he made 6 tackles and put Colin Kaepernick on his backside which is always satisfying. In his career so far he has played in 40 of 43 games recording 78 tackles and two sacks. He stood in for Luke Kuechly versus our next opponents earlier in the season and forced Tight End Ben Watson to fumble the ball. Same again this Sunday please AJ.
Listeners of the #C3 podcast should know that Bene Benwikere, AKA Sticki-Wiki is a former guest of the show, so he always a favorite. In his college career Benwikere made 214 tackles (including 11.5 for loss), 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumbles recovered (1 returned for touchdown), 14 interceptions (1 returned for touchdown), and 22 passes broken up. Benwikere made a blinding start in Charlotte nailing down the nickel corner spot. Through his first two games PFF rates him as the second best corner in the NFL. Like Klein, he has history against the Saints, recording his first professional interception in the week 14 blow-out victory. He finished the season being voted to ESPN, SI, and PFF All-Rookie teams. This season he has continued his form playing alongside Josh Norman in a secondary as good as any we've seen in a long time in North Carolina.
You may have noticed that I skipped a season and missed Josh Norman. This is deliberately, with his wearing number 24 I have a strong suspicion that he may feature elsewhere during this season. What I will say though is I'm glad we stuck with him, despite the rumors he may be released last season. He's kept us all waiting to see his full potential but it is worth it. He has been lights out this year and is rightly being touted for DPOY honors. I just hope he wins the award because of a match winning pick-6 in February. He is an endorsement for fifth round picks if ever I saw one.
So, that brings us to Cameron Artis-Pyne. There isn't much to say about him really, this season he has only 12 carries for 31 yards spread across four games. Whilst his ceiling doesn't appear to be all that high he doesn't have a great deal of tread on the tires. With the strength of our current running game, even if he moulds himself into a solid back-up he will prove a worthwhile member of the roster.
By Dan Rawlinson