Last updated: May 07. 2014 12:45AM - 448 Views
By - sstinson@civitasmedia.com - 910-817-2671

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In its short history, the first round hasn't always been kind to the Carolina Panthers.

For every Luke Kuechly, there has been a Dan Morgan. Or for every Cam Newton, there has been a Kerry Collins.

Right now, the Panthers are on a hot streak with their top picks.

Well at least over the last three drafts.

After snagging their franchise quarterback, Newton, with the No. 1 overall pick in 2011, the Panthers followed it up by selecting Kuechly the next year.

All Kuechly has done in his two years with the team is be named the AP's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012 and the AP's Defensive Player of the Year last season.

Even though linebacker wasn't thought to be a big need at the time, Carolina made the right call. The team found a player to build the defense around for the next 10 years, just as it elected to do with Newton on the other side of the ball.

In last year's draft, Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman grabbed another gem on defense with his selection of Star Lotulelei out of Utah. Lotulelei helped solidify the middle of the Panthers' defensive line and gave Kuechly and the rest of the linebackers pretty of room to roam around the field and make plays.

Again, Gettleman made a solid pick that should be in a Carolina uniform for years to come.

When it comes time for the Panthers to make their first-round pick Thursday night, it will come at No. 28. This is the first time the team has made its opening-round selection this late since drafting Chris Gamble with the 28th pick in 2004.

Carolina made back-to-back solid picks at the end of the first round in 2006 and 2007. Running back DeAngelo Williams heard his name called at No. 27 and a year later the Panthers added linebacker Jon Beason to the mix at No. 25.

Willliams, Beason and even Gamble were key contributors for the Panthers, but they have been the exceptions rather than the rule when the team selects so late in the opening round.

In its first draft in 1995, Carolina grabbed cornerback Tyrone Poole and offensive tackle Blake Brockermeyer at 22 and 29 after taking quarterback Kerry Collins with the fifth pick. Both Poole and Brockermeyer became starters, but neither made a big impact during their short tenures with the team.

Two years later, the Panthers selected wide receiver Rae Carruth at No. 27. After a solid rookie season with 44 catches, Carruth broke his foot in the season opener the next year and was sidelined. Then in his third season, Carruth was arrested and charged in connection with the murder of the mother of his child.

Carolina's bad luck with cornerbacks continued in 2000 when it picked Rashard Anderson out of Jackson State. Anderson played for two seasons before being suspended by the NFL for violating its substance abuse policy. It took two years for Anderson to be reinstated by the NFL and when he was, the Panthers promptly released him.

Gettleman hopes to reverse the team's late first-round curse and find a player that will help the team repeat as NFC South champions. In a draft — some experts are calling one of the deepest in history — Gettleman should have many good players to pick from when the Panthers are on the clock.

The team's biggest need on paper is at wide receiver, but Gettleman has stated publicly this week he isn't sold on picking one in the first round.

“History tells you that it's a very difficult position to assimilate into (the NFL), especially with the current game being played at the college level,” Gettleman said.

That leaves Gettleman looking at either a cornerback or a replacement for the retired Jordan Gross at tackle.

With his recent track record, don't be surprised to hear Gettleman go with the safe pick and take offensive tackle Morgan Moses from Virginia.

Sports editor Shawn Stinson may be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.

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