As a Panthers fan, your Benevolent Dictator is greatly displeased with the team’s draft day trade strategy which is why I gave them a “D” grade. In my grading scale all teams start with a “C” then need to impress me in order to move up from there. My beloved Panthers did not impress me.
While Carolina entered the draft desperate to select their left tackle of the future, they paid dearly in draft capital to make it happen. They traded up eight spots from to No. 47 (2nd Rd.) to No. 39 (2nd Rd.) in order to draft LT Greg Little, but the move cost them the No. 77 (3rd Rd.) pick. That’s a steep price to pay to move up just eight spots in the second round. As I’ve written before, NFL teams should salivate over third round picks. Competent talent evaluators should be able to fine a solid player at No. 77 who will play for the next four years on a dirt-cheap rookie contract. The Panthers gave up a lot and only got Little in return. (See what I did there? LAUGH AT YOUR DICTATOR’S PUNS!)
Now, if Little turns out to be the Panthers left tackle of the future then the trade-up strategy was more than worth it. The left tackle position has vexed Carolina for years and has nearly resulted in Cam Newton’s death on more than one occasion, so I get the urgency. But if Little doesn’t live up to expectations, sacrificing the No. 77 pick to land him could prove to be a costly mistake.
10 Year Comparisons
None of us know how good of an NFL player Greg Little will become, which is the risk of the draft. He could develop into a Pro Bowler (which would please your dictator), be out of the league in four years, or end up somewhere in between. Nobody knows! The only thing we know is he was drafted at No. 39 and the Panthers gave up No. 47 and No. 77 go get him. A helpful exercise for now is to look at the players drafted in each of those positions and see how their careers have turned out. So, let’s look at the collective careers of the No. 39, No. 47, and No. 77 players drafted in the 10 years between 2007 and 2016 (using 2016 as the most recent gives players at least three years to establish themselves):
No. 39 – 1 Pro Bowlers – 497 starts – 236 career AV – Top Players: DB Janoris Jenkins, OG Justin Blaylock
No. 47 – 2 Pro Bowlers – 587 starts – 324 career AV – Top Players: LB Bobby Wagner, WR Michael Thomas
No. 77 – 0 Pro Bowlers – 456 starts – 208 career AV – Top Players: DT Jurrell Casey, LB Demario Davis
In the 10 year period between 2007 and 2016, the players drafted at No. 47 (the pick the Panthers gave up) have collectively been more productive than the players drafted at No. 39 (the pick the Panthers received) in terms of Pro Bowlers, career starts, and career Approximate Value. What’s even more interesting is the players drafted at No. 77 (the pick the Panthers gave away) have been nearly as productive at those drafted at No. 39 (where the Panthers took Greg Little) with only 41 fewer career starts and 28 lower career Approximate Value.
Look, your dictator doesn’t “hate” Greg Little. As a Panthers fan I obviously want him to become the best left tackle in the history of the NFL (why not dream big?). I simply don’t know how good – or bad – he will be, and the fact is, neither do you. All I know is history tells us the Panthers would’ve clearly been better off just keeping No. 47 and No. 77. Over time, this is an objective fact, but we’ll see how Greg Little does as an individual when compared to his peer group.
The Panthers second move was to trade down from No. 187 (6th Rd.) for No. 212 (6th Rd.) and No. 237 (7th Rd.). I like this move for the Panthers. As I state in TDI’s Glorious Constitution, players drafted in Rounds 6-7 rarely pan out so I’d prefer to have two bites at the apple instead of one.
Overall the Panthers net trade value rating is -133 based on the Dallas Draft Value Chart. This strongly negative value is consistent with my more subjective view of the Panthers moves. Whether Carolina’s draft day trade strategy ultimately pays off will all come down to the performance of Greg Little.