The Carolina Panthers are a successful, albeit young franchise with only 24 NFL Drafts to analyze. But as the team prepares for draft number 25, we look back at some of the highs and lows along the way.
Welcome to the dark side of the NFL Draft, as we visit the 10 worst picks in Panthers history.
No. 10 worst pick - DT Vernon Butler (2016) and RB Tim Biakabutuka (1996)
How else should a controversial list begin other than with more controversy? There were more than 10 players deserving of the “worst Panthers draft pick” title, so this list begins with a tie at No. 10.
Biakabutuka was a great story as the first person from the Republic of Zaire to play in the NFL. He was also a moderately productive running back, totaling 2,530 yards and 14 scores on 611 carries during his six-year career — two of which he spent as Carolina’s primary starter.
But those are fine numbers for a mid-round pick; Biakabutuka was taken No. 8 overall in 1996 in a draft class that featured three Hall-of-Famers in the first round, alone. Considering that he was taken over Eddie George (No. 14), Marvin Harrison (No. 19) and Ray Lewis (No. 26), and given the fact that he only played 50 games in six seasons, Biakabutuka is one of the biggest busts in Panthers’ history.
Butler? It’s unfair to judge a player’s career based on his first three seasons in the league, but Butler has not been productive enough to warrant his selection over a top-5 wide receiver in the NFL.
Carolina entered the 2016 NFL Draft fresh off a 15-1 season and Super Bowl appearance — with “Philly” Brown and Ted Ginn, Jr. as its starting wide receivers. But instead on using its No. 30 pick on Sterling Shepard (No. 40) or Michael Thomas (No. 47), Carolina drafted Butler, who has the second-lowest career average value of any 2016 first-round pick, per Pro Football Reference.
Butler, who hasn’t played more than 37.5% of the team’s defensive snaps, still has time to remove himself from this list. But while the Panthers decide whether or not they’ll allow him to do so in Carolina, they will get a twice-a-year reminder of what they passed on for the foreseeable future, thanks to Thomas and the division rival New Orleans Saints.