20/20 Hindsight: In 2015 the Panthers traded up for WR Devin Funchess at No. 41, the Rams took OT Rob Havenstein at No. 57

The 20/20 Hindsight series allows us to look back on trades four years after they took place and see which team won the deal. The four-year mark is an ideal check-in point as most players have established themselves in their careers and have just finished their rookie contracts.

2015 Draft Day Trade – Panthers & Rams

Panthers Receive:
No. 41 (2nd) – WR Devin Funchess

Rams Receive:
No. 57 (2nd) – OT Rob Havenstein
No. 89 (3rd) – QB Sean Mannion
No. 201 (6th) – WR Bud Sasser

In 2015 the motto for the Carolina Panthers wide receivers was “the bigger, the better.” Quarterback Cam Newton has a propensity to overthrow receivers so Carolina moved up from No. 57 to No. 41 to draft 6-foot-4, 225-pounder Devin Funchess and pair him with Kelvin Benjamin, another massive target. The Rams, on the other hand, moved down 16 spots in the second round in order to gain additional picks in the third round (No. 89) and sixth round (No. 201). As you know, your dictator salivates over third round picks, so this was good strategy by the Rams.

Player Resumes 2015-2018

Devin Funchess, WR, Panthers – Funchess had an up-and-down four years in Carolina. After two ho-hum seasons in 2016 and 2017, he showed potential in 2017 (63-840-8) as the default No. 1 receiver after Kelvin Benjamin was traded, but Funchess was really a low-end No. 2 (or high-end No. 3) masquerading as the team’s primary receiver. Things went south in 2018 as rookie D.J. Moore emerged as a legitimate weapon while Funchess failed to separate himself from fellow wideouts Curtis Samuel and Jarius Wright.
Team extension decision: The Panthers let Funchess walk in the 2018 offseason. He signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Colts.

Rob Havenstein, OT, Rams – Havenstein won the starting tackle job as a rookie and started 59 games over his first four years with the Rams. While he hasn’t yet been selected to the Pro Bowl, he has distinguished himself as one of the best right tackles in the NFL. In 2018 Pro Football Focus ranked him the No. 54 player in the entire league. Football Reference’s Approximate Value metric ranked him as the No. 7 overall tackle in the NFL in 2018.
Team extension decision: Signed a 4-year, $32.5 million extension with the Rams.

Sean Mannion, QB, Rams – Mannion was an interesting pick in the third round, a spot in the draft where promising quarterbacks are usually no longer available. He served as an inexpensive backup throughout the duration of his four-year rookie contract. Mannion has not been re-signed by the Rams as of the publication of this column and is still a free agent. He is unlikely to return to Los Angeles as the Rams have recently signed QB Blake Bortles as a backup to Jared Goff.
Team extension decision: Currently a free agent.

Bud Sasser, WR, Rams – This is a truly sad set of circumstances as Sasser’s NFL dream was ended before it began. The Rams immediately released Sasser shortly after signing his rookie contract due to a pre-existing heart condition that prevented him from clearing his physical.
Team extension decision: Out of NFL for health reasons.

Overall, it’s clear the Rams won this trade, both in terms of strategy (picks gained) and execution (players drafted). Havenstein is clearly better than Funchess and has signed a long-term extension with the Rams. Funch is now on a one-year “prove it” deal with the Colts. Sean Mannion provided some value for the Rams by serving as a four-year QB2 on a dirt-cheap 4-year, $3.3 million rookie contract. However, the Rams should have been able to find a starter at a different position with a third round pick, so in retrospect this seems like a wasted pick.

The ultimate irony for the Panthers is they have struggled for years to find healthy, quality tackles to protect Cam Newton. They could’ve landed one of the league’s best in Rob Havenstein back in 2015 if they would have stayed at No. 57, drafted Rob Havenstein, and kept their third and sixth round picks. The Rams clearly won this trade.

–Benevolent Dictator

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