Missing Value In Either Draft, Real or Fantasy, Will Cost You. Has It Cost the Panthers?

The rapidly approaching Fantasy Football Draft prompted me to think about how the real Draft compares to the Fantasy Draft.  There was also some good discussion around this on Twitter this past week.     

I am not a Fantasy Expert (though I do okay in my leagues and enjoy it very much).  My real passion and expertise is with the NFL Draft.  While glaring differences exist, there are some striking similarities between the two.  NFL GMs claim to make picks solely based on value, while many Fantasy GMs typically focus first on positions. As an example, exactly zero RBs went in the First Round of this year’s NFL Draft, while as many as 10 will go in the upcoming Fantasy Draft.  Moreover, most Fantasy GMs will take the fifth or sixth rated RB over the top-rated WR.  The reasoning is solid however:  RBs are king in Fantasy Football.  Did you know that only five RBs last year rushed for more than 1,000 yards and scored more than 10 touchdowns?  And most leagues require that there are 24 starting RBs.  That is why there was an average of 9 RBs drafted in the first round of a 12 team draft a year ago.  This over valuing of a RB should change and I have a feeling it will.  At least on this site.  The commonality between the two drafts, however, is that no matter who you draft early, you absolutely have to find some sleepers late or you will just be average.  The first two rounds only take you so far. 

Thinking about the similarities and differences between the two drafts spurred me to look back through my notes regarding the Panthers Draft History.  Knowing that the Panthers haven’t had back-to-back winning seasons made me speculate that you can tie that to the draft.  After some deeper study, it is safe to say the inconsistent history of the Panthers is clearly tied to the draft.  We have found very few sleepers late in the draft or what I call value picks.  

Let’s take a look at the value Picks in Panther’s history.  I’m defining value as those picks that outperformed expectations of the Round they were selected in.  (No First Round Picks are considered and a Second Round Pick would have to be perennial Pro-Bowlers to be considered).   There has been 156 picks beginning with Kerry Collins as our first Pick (#5 Overall) in 1995 and ending with Tyler Gaffney this year.  We can only hope that GM Dave Gettleman’s picks stand the test of time better than those before him.  Some drafts were just horrendous.  Take the 1998 Draft as an example, (which is arguably our worst).  We drafted Jason Peter, Chuck Wiley, Mitch Marrow, Donald Hayes, Jerry Jensen, Damien Richardson, Viliami Maumau (if you remember him, you are lying) and Jim “the Burner” Turner.  No value picks existed there.  I think Chuck Wiley had the most potential but I do remember him popping his Achilles in week Four of the Pre-season in Pittsburgh (before they upgraded their turf).  He never rebounded.  Drafts like that one will set your franchise back for years to come. 

So how many value picks have the Panthers had in Franchise History?  I count 14 value picks out of the 150 picks prior to this season.  Imagine if less than 10-percent of your Fantasy Picks in rounds 2 or later outperformed the expectations of the Round you chose them in.  Your Fantasy Team would be very average.  Below are the Panthers’ value-picks, let me know your thoughts and especially if you disagree:

1-     Frank Garcia- Picked 132nd in our inaugural draft in 1995.  Rock solid Center and Guard for the Panthers and a darn good radio personality in the QC  to boot

2-   Chad Cota- Picked 209th in 1995.  Most remembered for the interception against Kordell Stewart with 29 seconds left in a December game in  1996 that clinched us the NFC West Title

3-    Kris Mangum- Picked 228th in 1997.  Very underrated blocker that was key component to Super Bowl run.  He did the little things that made others better

4-   Kris Jenkins- Picked 44th in 2001.  He is only one of two  2nd Rounders to make the list.  He was an absolute beast and set tone up front for our dominant DLine in the early 2000’s.  If Star can reach Jenkins’ level, we will return to the Super Bowl

5-    Steve Smith- Picked 74th in 2001.  The best Panther of all-time hands down

6-   Will Witherspoon- Picked 73rd in 2002.  Still in the league with the Rams and had a career-high 16 tackles in the Panthers only Super Bowl appearance

7-    Travelle Wharton- Picked 94th in 2004.  Probably our second best lineman in Franchise history.  Played both Tackle spots as well anchoring the LG spot during his eight Panther Seasons
8-   Geoff Hangartner- Picked 169th in 2005.  Anyone that gains the name Piggy and sticks around as long as he did is a value pick in the 5th Round

9-   James Anderson- Picked 88th in 2006.  I’ll take a third-round guy that leads your team in tackles for multiple seasons and appears in 94 games

10-  Ryan Kalil- Picked 59th in 2007.  Kalil pairs with Kris Jenkins as the only two 2nd Rounders to make the list.  Anytime you can get a 4-Time Pro Bowler and 2-Time All Pro in the 2nd Round you are getting great value.  To compare, we also took his college teammate, Dwayne Jarrett, in the 2nd Round that year  
11- Charles Johnson- Picked 83rd in 2007.  Big Money is the second best 3rd Rd Pick in Franchise History.  His workmanlike attitude that is a stabilizing force in the locker room.  Hope he plays for us forever

12-    Captain Munnerlyn- Picked 216th in 2009.  Capt. Is the definition of draft-value.  He has been one of the very best Nickel-Corners in the league and is extreme value for a 7th Rounder

13-   Greg Hardy- Picked 175th in 2010.  Anyone that goes on to receive the Franchise Tag after being a 6th Round Pick is extreme value.  Most everything about the Kraken is extreme and is one of my personal favorites

14-  Brad Nortman- Picked 207th in 2012.  I had to have a kicker in here.  But seriously this guy played a huge role in our success in 2013.  He flips the field.

Now there has also been some incredible value from some UDFAs as well.  My favorite was HOOOOVER along with some modern day contributors like Byron Bell, Nate Chandler, Melvin White and Robert Lester. 

So the Fantasy Draft and the NFL Draft have their obvious differences and each drafter defines value differently.  Yet there is one common thread holds true:  If you want to be consistently good and win Championships, you better draft value.  Just how you define value differs depending on which Draft you are talking about.  Let me hear what pick you think is the Panthers most valuable pick besides Steve Smith.  My vote goes to the Kraken.  You just don’t find dominance in the sixth round unless your name is Tom Brady.  But let me know your thoughts.  And follow me, Erin Ford, on Twitter at @PantherDrafter.  And look for a 2015 Mock Draft from me over at DraftTek coming soon.