Panthers GM Dave Gettleman does some of his best work at combine

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- One reason the Carolina Panthers reached Super Bowl 50 was because of what general manager Dave Gettleman has done in the draft.

It starts at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, where Gettleman and his staff will spend the rest of this week evaluating the top college prospects.

Look at the evidence.

Gettleman has drafted 16 players since arriving at Carolina in January 2013. Thirteen remain on the roster, an 81.2 success rate. Seven have become full-time starters. Eleven have started multiple games.

To put that into perspective, the Panthers drafted 25 players in the three years prior to Gettleman’s arrival. Seven remain on the roster, including cornerback Robert McClain, who was cut and re-signed late this season.

Even counting McClain, that’s only a 28 percent success rate.

Among the seven are defensive end Frank Alexander, who has been suspended three times for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and soon-to-be free agent punter Brad Nortman.

You can’t overlook that also among the seven are quarterback Cam Newton, linebacker Luke Kuechly and cornerback Josh Norman, key cogs in this past season’s 17-2 record.

But for the most part, those draft classes had more misses than hits.

And even some of the hits turned out to be misses, none bigger than defensive end Greg Hardy, who was not re-signed following the 2014 season because of his domestic violence case.

To further put this into perspective, the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos had 13 of 22 players they drafted over the past three seasons on their roster that beat the Panthers 24-10. That’s a success rate of 59 percent.

Let’s take a look at Gettleman’s first three draft classes as he prepares for his fourth at the combine:


OLB Shaq Thompson, 1st round -- Started 10 regular-season games and three playoff games. Played his best down the stretch.

WR Devin Funchess, 2nd round -- Started five regular-season games and three playoff games. Caught 31 passes for 473 yards and five touchdowns during the regular season, then another five passes for 73 yards and a touchdown in the playoffs.

OT Daryl Williams, 4th round -- Started two regular-season games and played in 10. Should compete for the starting right tackle spot in 2016.

LB David Mayo, 5th round -- Played in 12 games, mostly on special teams.

RB Cameron Artis-Payne, 5th round -- Played in seven games, rushing for 183 yards and a touchdown and catching five passes for 58 yards. Was a nice fill-in while Jonathan Stewart was injured.


WR Kelvin Benjamin, 1st round -- Started 15 regular-season and two postseason games as a rookie, catching a combined 84 passes for 1,116 yards and 11 touchdowns. Missed the 2015 season with a knee injury.

DE Kony Ealy, 2nd round -- Started nine regular-season and one postseason game this year. Has nine regular-season sacks and three postseason sacks, all coming in Super Bowl 50.

OG Trai Turner, 3rd round -- Started all 16 games at right guard in 2016 and started nine of the 13 games in which he played as a rookie.

FS Tre Boston, 4th round -- Has started six of 27 regular-season games and two of five playoff games. Has two postseason interceptions.

CB Bene’ Benwikere, 5th round -- Has started 10 regular-season games and two postseason games. His 2015 season ended after 13 games due to a broken leg. Drafted primarily to be the starting nickel back.

RB Tyler Gaffney, 6th round -- Suffered a season-ending knee injury in training camp and was released with the intention of re-signing him and placing him on injured reserve. The New England Patriots claimed him off waivers first.


DT Star Lotulelei, 1st round -- Has started 43 of 44 regular-season games and all five playoff games in which he’s been healthy.

DT Kawann Short, 2nd round -- Emerged as one of the league’s top tackles this season with 11 regular-season sacks and two more in the postseason. He started every game this season after starting nine in 2014.

OG Edmund Kugbila, 4th round -- Injuries ended his time with Carolina prematurely. He spent the 2013 season on injured reserve with a hamstring injury and underwent back surgery during the 2014 offseason. A free agent, he needs to prove he's healthy enough to play again.

LB A.J. Klein, 5th round -- Has started 16 games in three seasons, including three straight at middle linebacker this past season when Pro Bowler Luke Kuechly was out with a concussion. Also a top special teams player.

RB Kenjon Barner, 6th round -- Probably Gettleman’s only miss that had nothing to do with injury. He was traded to Philadelphia for a conditional draft pick during his second training camp.