The Carolina Panthers are a young franchise having only been around since 1995, however, the team has consistently drafted well. This article looks at the best ten draft picks in Carolina’s history.

1996: 2.13.43: Mushin Muhammad
In the second round of the team’s second NFL Draft, Carolina selected a wide receiver that would be a cornerstone of the franchise for 11 seasons.
From 1996 through 2004, Muhammad had three 1,000-yard receiving seasons, while totaling 7,751 yards and 44 touchdowns. After the 2004 season, Muhammad went to play three seasons for the Chicago Bears before returning to Carolina for two seasons from 2008-2009.

In total Muhammad finished his career with 11,438, 62 touchdowns, and was responsible for 566 first downs in regular season play. Muhammad also played in nine playoff games and two Super Bowl games with Carolina and Chicago, accumulating 558 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns. However, Muhammad was not on the winning side in either of his Super Bowl appearances.

Muhammad also received All-Pro honors in 2004, and Pro Bowl honors in 1999 and 2004. Muhammad was a great player that worked hard, and always made an impact.

1997: 2.26.56: Mike Minter
Mike Minter played 10 seasons with Carolina, with his best season being the 2000 season. In the 2000 season Minter recorded 118 total tackles, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, two interceptions and an interception returned for a touchdown.

Minter finished his career with 782 total tackles, 11 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, 11 fumble recoveries, 17 interceptions, 421 interception return yards, and four interceptions returned for a touchdown. Minter’s 421 return yards and four touchdowns are still team records. Minter was also a part of the 2003 Carolina squad that played against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Despite his great career, Minter never won a Super Bowl or received Pro Bowl honors.

1999: 2.7.38: Mike Rucker   
Mike Rucker played in 14 or more regular season games in each of his nine seasons with Carolina. In those nine seasons, Rucker racked up 331 solo tackles, 85 assisted tackles, 16 forced fumbles, and seven fumble recoveries. Rucker’s most impressive statistic is his 55.5 sacks, which is still second all-time for Carolina.

Rucker received Pro Bowl honors in 2003.

2001: 3.12.74: Steve Smith
Steve Smith is arguably one of the greatest wide receivers ever to play for Carolina and to play in the NFL. Smith leads Carolina in receptions with 699, receiving yards with 10,278, touchdowns with 59 and most 100-yard receiving games with 38 and is the second leading scorer on the team with 406 points. Additionally, Smith has six 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and is responsible for 434 first downs.

In 2005, Smith received the NFL AP Comeback Player of the Year Award, received First-Team All-Pro honors in 2001 and 2003 and has received Pro Bowl honors in 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011.

Smith has played in eight playoff games with Carolina, racking up 782 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns. Carolina is rebuilding its team in the last couple of seasons, and Smith still has a chance to add a Super Bowl win to his list of accomplishments.

2002: 1.2.2: Julius Peppers
Julius Peppers played for Carolina from 2002-2009 and still has the most sacks, 81, and the most multi-sack games, 21 in the team’s history. In addition, while in Carolina Peppers racked up 382 tackles, six interceptions, two interceptions returned for a touchdown, 30 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries.

Following the 2009 season Peppers left Carolina to play for the Chicago Bears. So far, in Chicago, Peppers has racked up 91 total tackles, 19 sacks, and two interceptions.

Peppers won the NFL AP Rookie Defensive Player of Year Award in 2002, received Pro Bowl Honors in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2010, and received First-Team All-Pro Honors in 2004, 2006, and 2010. 

2003: 1.8.8: Jordan Gross
Jordan Gross has been a consistent player on Carolina’s offensive line since 2003, and is part of the reason for the success of running back DeAngelo Williams and quarterback Cam Newton. Gross has played in 135 games for Carolina, and has racked up six fumble recoveries.
Gross received Pro Bowl honors in 2008 and 2010, and received First-Team All-Pro honors in 2008.

2004: 1.28.28: Chris Gamble
All Chris Gamble has done since arriving in Carolina is make tackles and intercept passes from opposing quarterbacks. Gamble currently has 493 total tackles with 430 of those being solo tackles, and has 27 interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
Gamble is a player that makes the Carolina Panthers a fun team to watch.

2006: 1.27.27: DeAngelo Williams
DeAngelo Williams’ 5,047 rushing yards, 38 rushing touchdowns and 16 100-yard rushing games, are all Carolina records in those categories. Additionally, Williams is fifth on the team for total points scored with 256 points.

Williams received Second-Team All-Pro honors in 2008 and received Pro Bowl honors in 2009.

2007: 1.25.25: Jon Beason
Jon Beason has been a force to be reckoned with since coming to Carolina, racking up 422 solo tackles, 123 assisted tackles, eight interceptions, four sacks and four forced fumbles.

Beason received First-Team All-Pro honors in 2008, and has received Pro Bowl honors in 2008, 2009, and 2010.
Beason missed the 2011 season due to injury, and his return is badly needed by a Carolina team that finished 28th in 2011 in total tackles. 

2011: 1.1.1: Cam Newton
Although Cam Newton has only played one year in the NFL, he has immediately made an impact. In his rookie season, Newton threw for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns, while rushing for 706 yards and 14 touchdowns. Newton also led Carolina to a 6-10 overall record, which was an improvement on the team’s 2-14 record in 2010.

Newton was also a replacement for Eli Manning at the 2011 Pro Bowl.