No one knows what will happen on draft night, not even the guys who will make the final decision. The scenarios are seemingly endless in what looks to be one of the less predictable drafts in recent memory. As fans mock every possible scenario, except the one that will happen, the Panthers are sending out the big guns to get a close look at some of their favorite prospects.
This past week, offensive coordinator Norv Turner and wide receivers coach Lance Taylor ventured to get a closer look at Maryland’s DJ Moore and LSU’s DJ Chark. Either would make a nice play-toy for Cam Newton and Turner's aggressive downfield offense. From the look on Turner’s face, he definitely likes what he sees.
Trying to guess who the Panthers will draft based on prospect visits and perceived needs is a little more than educated guessing. People often compare DJ Moore to Steve Smith, and DJ Chark is tall and really, really fast. Both would be interesting additions to the Panthers offense, but there’s really no telling who Carolina is truly zeroing in on and who is just smoke. We can’t know who they think will be at #24, who they hope will be there, and who they would run to the podium if they fell to 24. Hell, Marty could surprise us and move up or down, leaving all this uneducated guessing in the end.
All we have to work with is who we think on the face could help Carolina the most for the longest. The prospect list helps us narrow it down, but is hardly gospel for our meditations. Perennial great, Jordan Gross, reminded recently the draft can just be plain wacky. Prior to the draft, Gross privately met with only one team, the Houston Texans who selected third overall. Carolina, who drafted Gross at #8, hadn’t even attended his Pro Day or taken him to dinner prior to his selection.
The NFL Draft, scouting and the Combine, and the importance of this pre-draft interview ordeal is much different than it was in 2003. Media coverage of the event was less. Tidbits of hard details about the draft process occasioned regional papers. There would be weekly stories of draft needs or a story on some of the higher-profile prospects. Today’s monitoring of every bit of information by an army of social media warriors is starkly different from the limited access and information available to fans, or even teams, about the draft process in 2003. Teams seemed a little more focused on concealing their intentions from other teams, while today teams conceal that intent by showering interest on everyone.
Selecting a franchise left tackle who was arguably was a top three prospect at #8 is clearly a different animal than selecting #24 in this “new” NFL. The 2003 draft, however, reminds that the NFL Draft can get bizarre despite anyone’s projections. In a draft where #1 selection Carson Palmer had signed his contract with the Cincinnati Bengals a full day prior to the draft, the Minnesota Vikings bizarrely allowed their selection time to expire, allowing both Jacksonville and Carolina to select before the reeling Vikings could manage their selection. It may be a different era, but 2003 illustrates that just about anything can happen.
By Tony Dunn
Follow @Cat_Chronicles for the latest Panthers news and opinions from the fan perspective.