Welcome to the bright side of the NFL Draft, as we re-visit the 10 best picks in Carolina Panther history.
No. 3 best pick: DE Julius Peppers (2002)
Fresh off a 1–15 season in which they set an NFL record for most consecutive losses, the Panthers had some holes to fill in the 2002 NFL Draft.
They owned the No 2 overall pick, where one of the top quarterbacks would be available. But first-year GM Marty Hurney passed on Oregon’s Joey Harrington after the expansion Houston Texans selected Fresno State’s David Carr with the first pick, opting for a homegrown talent on the defensive line — North Carolina DE Julius Peppers
Peppers outlasted Carr, Harrington and every other member of the 2002 draft class except Josh McCown, recording 159.5 sacks during his 17-year career before officially retiring at the end of the 2018 season.
As noticeable a presence as he was on the field, he often kept a low profile off it — although his reluctance for the spotlight didn’t stop him from serving the state in which he grew up. He offered assistance to areas in the Carolinas affected by Hurricane Florence in 2018, donating $100,000 and visiting the afflicted areas on multiple occasions.
He didn’t spend his entire career with the Panthers, leaving for Chicago and then Green Bay after the 2009 season, but he returned to Carolina in 2017 to finish it. When he’s eligible in five years, Peppers is likely a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Not a bad first pick for Hurney.