Welcome to the bright side of the NFL Draft, as we revisit the 10 best picks in Carolina Panthers history.
No. 5 best picks: OT Jordan Gross (2003) & C Ryan Kalil (2007)
As indulgent as it may be to include more than 10 players in a “top-10” series, no list of the Panthers’ best draft picks should exist without Jordan Gross and Ryan Kalil.
It’s hard to imagine a better first-two NFL Drafts for Panthers GM Marty Hurney as far as first-round picks go. He took Julius Peppers in 2002, then followed it up with Gross at No. 8 overall in 2003.
Gross not only anchored Carolina’s offensive line for 11 seasons at both left and right tackle, making three Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team, but he was also a leader in the locker room and an example for younger players. Kalil once named Gross as his mentor, and both players helped the Panthers foster a culture of professionalism during their time with the franchise.
How Hurney landed Kalil is also one of his best moves as Carolina’s GM. He moved back in the first round of the 2007 draft, acquiring the No. 25 overall and No. 59 overall picks in the process, which he used, respectively, on Jon Beason and Kalil. One of the last picks of the second round, Kalil went on to make five Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams during his 12-year career.
If asked about the five most-influential players he’s coached in Carolina, Gross and Kalil would likely be two of the first names head coach Ron Rivera offers.