Welcome to the bright side of the NFL Draft, as we re-visit the 10 best picks in Carolina Panthers history:
No. 1 best pick: WR Steve Smith (2001)
The Panthers’ first three draft picks in 2001 may represent the best three-round stretch in team history, starting with Dan Morgan and Kris Jenkins in the first two rounds, and finishing with the best draft pick the franchise ever made in the third — wide receiver Steve Smith.
As the No. 74 overall pick, Smith immediately made an impact as an All-Pro returner as a rookie and continued to treat Carolina fans to memorable plays during his 13 seasons with the team, including the first touch of his NFL career — a kickoff he returned for a touchdown — and ‘X-Clown,’ the walk-off touchdown reception and dash Smith made against the St. Louis Rams in 2003 that sent the Panthers to the NFC Championship game and eventually the Super Bowl.
Even though he retired after the 2016 season as a Baltimore Raven, Smith remains the Panthers’ all-time leading receiver with 12,197 yards. His 14,731 career receiving yards are currently the second-most in the NFL since 2001, his 1,031 catches rank fourth and his 81 touchdowns rank eighth.
He is also the fourth-leading postseason receiver in NFL history.
A legendary trash-talker on the field and often outspoken off it, Smith also performed numerous charitable acts such as donating shoes to the homeless before road games and washing their feet, and paying for a Charlotte student’s college education.
He’s the best value pick on this list and one of the biggest draft steals ever.