04/29/09 — Opinion -- Carolina makes questionable picks in 2009 NFL Draft

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Opinion -- Carolina makes questionable picks in 2009 NFL Draft

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on April 29, 2009 1:46 PM

The Carolina Panthers' decision making process in last weekend's NFL draft was everything that the franchise has become in recent years -- safe, predictable and at times boring.

Carolina's offseason blunders began by not signing a single player in free agency to address needs at wide receiver, defensive back and both the offensive and defensive line.

The Panthers continued their journey down the safe route by giving 34-year-old quarterback Jake Delhomme a five-year, $42.5 million contract extension last week.

The deal, which includes $20 million in guaranteed money, comes less than four months after Delhomme's five-interception and one lost fumble performance in a 33-13, home playoff loss to Arizona. Delhomme threw for over 250 yards just four times last season and had one or fewer touchdown passes in 13 different games.

Carolina is 54-33 in the regular season and the playoffs over the past six seasons when Delhomme starts.

The Panthers have a pair of unproven quarterbacks on their roster behind Delhomme in Matt Moore and Josh McCown. Carolina chose to pass on Jay Cutler when the former Denver quarterback was on the trading block and also didn't draft a quarterback over the weekend.

The Panthers traded their first-round pick in 2010 to San Francisco in order to acquire Florida State defensive end Everette Brown with the 11th pick in the second round.

Brown, who led the ACC last season with 131/2 sacks and 211/2 tackles for loss, will likely have a chance to start at defensive end opposite Julius Peppers. At 6-foot-1, 256 pounds, Brown is a bit undersized for a defensive end in the Panthers' 4-3 scheme and could replace Peppers, who remains unsigned and has expressed interest in playing elsewhere in the league.

The Panthers addressed depth issues in the secondary by selecting Troy's Sherrod Martin in the second round and South Carolina's Captain Munnerlyn in the seventh round.

Carolina drafted Georgia defensive tackle Corey Irvin in the third round and Oklahoma guard Duke Robinson in the fifth round. Irvin, who isn't expected to start immediately, stayed just two seasons at Georgia after spending time at Georgia Military College. He recorded just 8.5 tackles in 10 starts for the Bulldogs last season.

Robinson, the nephew of Smokey Robinson, admitted he didn't expect to be drafted by the Panthers, isn't slated to start right away.

Carolina made a pair of puzzling picks in the fourth round, selecting tailback Mike Goodson from Texas A&M and fullback Tony Fiammetta of Syracuse.

The Panthers ranked third in the NFL in rushing last season, and only Adrian Peterson and Michael Turner had more rushing yards than DeAngelo Williams. Running the football clearly isn't an area of concern for Carolina, which makes the selections of Goodson and Fiammetta somewhat questionable.

The Panthers finished 23rd out of 32 teams in the league in receiving yards last season with 3,288. Steve Smith's 1,421 receiving yards were third best in the league. The problem is 10 other Carolina players only combined for 1,867 yards.

Smith caught six of Carolina's 15 receiving touchdowns a year ago, and only one other Panther had a reception of 60 yards or more.

There were nine wide receivers taken in the first two rounds of last weekend's draft and 35 were selected overall. Passing on the opportunity to give an aging and streaky quarterback another deep threat could come back to haunt Carolina.

There's a reason why franchises such as New England, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis have proven draft track records that correlate to on-field success.

As long as the Panthers continue to play it close to the vest off the field, the organization and its fans will continue to reap what it sows.