Ranking the Top 10 Current Panthers

Football fans his time of year are consumed (and rightfully so) with NFL draft-talk.  Time to mix it up a little bit. Our friends at www.panthersbr.com (Brazilian Panther fans) and I were talking and they asked who we thought the best 10 current Panthers are.  That got me thinking and I thought I’d put forth my list and I’d love to hear yours. There sure is to be a debate about this one.

10-  Josh Norman-  Coming in at number 10 is a player on the rise.  After spending virtually two years in Ron Rivera’s doghouse, Josh Norman has broken out and is turning into one heck of a play-maker in the Panthers Secondary.  In 14 games played in 2014, Norman had two interceptions a forced fumble and 14 passes defended.  He showed much more discipline this past year and has become much more than the perennial pre-season All-Pro. I’d like to see the Panthers lock him up long term now.  Otherwise, he’ll be a Free Agent next year and will cash in somewhere.

9-  Jonathan Stewart-  This was the hardest guy to figure out where to put him in my rankings.  The healthy JSTEW is probably top five.  Much of his career though has been spent on the bicycle.  But man he runs with determination and power.  Over the last five games this past year he was arguably the best Running Back in football.  Also last year, he had his highest rushing total (809) of his career since 2009 when he had 1,133 yards.  And he only played in 13 games this year.  If we get a healthy Jonathan Stewart for 16 games, look out.

8-  Bene Benwikere-  High praise for a Rookie to be in the Top 10. Especially for one that was drafted in the fifth round and only played in 10 games.  But Stiki Wiki deserves it.  When he came back to the Panthers’ line up, there was a noticeable difference.  He just made plays.  And according to our friends at ProFootballFocus.com, he was one of the very best Corners in the league and was actually ranked #1 over a stretch where he he scored positively from Week’s 13-17.  The combination of Benwikere and Norman will be one of the better CB groups in the NFL.  And with the  Peanut Tillman signing, Stiki Wiki may become the best Nickelback in the league.

7-  Greg Olsen-  Many folks may think this too low for a Pro Bowler.  Olsen is one of the best TEs in the league.  And he had a career year in 2014 with 84 receptions and 1,008 yards.  The only reason he isn’t higher is there are simply six players I see as better.  But I love having him on the Panthers. Probably the best trade in Panthers history.  The Bears loss is our gain.

6-  KK Short-  This pick a couple of years ago is the poster child for how good Dave Gettleman really is.  ProFootballFocus ranked him ninth in the league at DT.  Big Kawann is absolutely relentless in his pocket penetration.  He played all 16 games last year and had 40 tackles and 3.5 sacks from the DT position.  He is one guy that makes a huge difference in our lineup and to me is the one of our two DTs that we must sign long term.

5-  Thomas Davis-  Thomas Davis is the heart and soul of the Carolina Panthers.  No one person (other than Jerry Richardson) exemplifies what it means to be a Panther than does Thomas Davis. .Absolute class act on and off the field.  Also, I am childishly-eager to hear a player for my team want to only play for my team.  I understand but don’t like the “it’s a business” mentality.  And TD has said if he doesn’t play for the Panthers, he’s retiring. He has 730 career tackles with 100 of them coming last year.  Without him, our Defense is not nearly as good.

4. Ryan Kalil-  Anytime you have a four-time Pro-Bowler anchoring the Center position, you have to be grateful.  And that I am.  He is the perfect example of why you draft for talent and not for need.  We did not “need” a Center.  We had Geoff Hangartner manning that position and he had done a more than adequate job.  But when he was surprisingly available in the second round, he was a “no-brainer.”  Kudos to Marty Hurney on that one.

3.  Charles Johnson-  They don’t call him Big Money for nothing.  He is currently the highest paid Panther and has earned his money.  He is one of the hardest working players I’ve ever seen.  He knows he is paid handsomely and it motivates him to be the best he can be.  And he is one of those guys that doesn’t say much but when he does, people listen.  He has averaged eight sacks per season over his career and when he’s not battling a nagging injury, he is better than those great numbers show. Also, I love how he loves Charlotte and supports other teams here, see this tweet.


2-  Cam Newton-  Cam is the face of the franchise.  He is who fans of other teams know about when the name Carolina Panthers comes up.  Let’s face it, this team will go as far as he takes them.  No other QB in the league has the combination of size, speed and arm that Cam has.  I can not wait to see him healthy this year.  I’m just anxiously awaiting his contract extension.  The sky is not even the limit for Cam Newton.

1- Luke Kuechly- Yes, I have Luke as our best player.  He is just flat out amazing.  He is the only Panther that PFF.com ranked as #1 at his position and I agree with them.  He looks like Clark Kent and plays like Superman. This 2014 All-Pro will be a perennial All-Pro and is the best selection made by Marty Hurney.  Come draft night, just remember that virtually no one was happy with that pick when it was made.  Another great example of why you pick talent and not need.  Remember we had Jon Beason at the time.

Some honorable mentions that I do think are very good players that I want on this team for the long haul are Kelvin Benjamin and Star Lotulelei.  Both are rising players and I hope are with us for the long haul.  They are my numbers 11 & 12.

So do you agree Panther fans?  Let me hear your top 10.  And keep an eye out on www.panthersbr.com ans they are going to do a video series for their Top 10.  Thanks for the idea guys, this was a fun exercise.

Mel Mayock