CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman expressed concern last month about the “fail factor” in recent history with first-round draft picks.
“The miss rate is really scary,” he said.
Many of those misses have come from teams with the No. 8 pick that the Panthers have this season. Over the past 20 years, only nine players picked at that spot have made the Pro Bowl. Only four of those have gone to as many as three.
You could consider eight of these picks failures, or at least significant disappointments.
“When you look at these first-rounders and the failure rate, it gets scary,” Gettleman said.
Justin Gilbert, who was taken eighth in the 2014 draft, exemplifies the difficulty that No. 8 picks have had in achieving success over the last 20 years. Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports
It’s not an exact science. Gettleman mentioned Carolina’s first draft in 1995. The Panthers traded the top pick to the Cincinnati Bengals, who selected running back Ki-Jana Carter. The Panthers took quarterback Kerry Collins at No. 5.
Carter tore an ACL on his third preseason carry and never was the same. He battled injuries the rest of his short career.
While Collins made the Pro Bowl once and led Carolina to the NFC championship in his second season, he was released in his fourth season after telling coach Dom Capers, “My heart’s not in in it, I’m not happy, and I don’t feel like I can play right now.”
Both could be deemed failures for different reasons.
That’s why Gettleman and company are doing extensive research on LSU running back Leonard Fournette, Alabama tight end O.J. Howard and others being considered at No. 8.
“Once we get the board set, we ask ourselves a question: ‘What’s his fail factor?'” Gettleman said.
With that, let’s look at the history of the eighth pick over the past 20 years. The 19 selections in that span are assigned one of three grades: success, solid or miss.
2016, Jack Conklin, OT, Tennessee Titans (solid): It’s too early to call him an outright success, but he looks good. The former Michigan State star started all 16 games and was selected first-team All-Pro.
2015, Vic Beasley Jr., OLB, Atlanta Falcons (success): He made the Pro Bowl this past season after moving from defensive end to outside linebacker. He followed a somewhat disappointing first season with 15.5 sacks.
2014, Justin Gilbert, CB, Cleveland Browns (miss): Gilbert was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2016 for a sixth-round pick. He was released the by the Steelers in February and is not on a roster.
2013, Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Los Angeles Rams (miss): Austin had a career-best 58 catches for 509 yards last season, but he still hasn’t lived up to potential. He has only 12 touchdown catches in four seasons. To put that in perspective, Carolina’s Kelvin Benjamin (28th pick, 2014) has 16 touchdowns in two seasons.
2011, Jake Locker, QB, Tennessee Titans (miss): He was benched in 2014. The Titans used the second overall pick of the 2015 draft on Marcus Mariotta, who is now the team’s quarterback of the future.
2010, Rolando McClain, MLB, Oakland Raiders (miss): He was released by the Raiders during the 2013 offseason after two subpar seasons and several off-the-field incidents. After one season with the Baltimore Ravens, he was starting to come into his own with the Dallas Cowboys. However, his NFL future is in doubt after violating the league’s substance abuse policy multiple times.
2009, Eugene Monroe, OT, Jacksonville Jaguars (solid): Monroe started 62 of 65 games for the Jaguars before being traded to Baltimore four games into the 2013 season. He retired after being released by the Ravens in 2016, citing the toll football has taken on his brain as a reason in a story in The Players’ Tribune.
2008, Derrick Harvey, DE Jacksonville Jaguars (miss): Harvey was waived by the Jaguars after his third season. He spent one lackluster season with the Denver Broncos and hasn’t played since 2011.
2007, Jamaal Anderson, DE, Atlanta Falcons (miss): He was released by Atlanta after his fourth season with only 4.5 sacks over that time. Anderson spent time in Indianapolis and Cincinnati over the next two seasons and hasn’t been on a roster since.
2005, Antrel Rolle, DB, Arizona Cardinals (success): Rolle was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and Super Bowl champion, although most of his major success came with his second team, the New York Giants.
2003, Jordan Gross, OT, Carolina Panthers (success): Gross is one of the bigger No. 8 successes during this span. He made three Pro Bowls and was a perennial team captain, spending his entire career with the Panthers before retiring after the 2013 season.
2002, Roy Williams, FS Dallas Cowboys (success): He may be the best of the No. 8 lot during this span, earning five Pro Bowl selections with the Cowboys before going to Cincinnati for the final two years of his career.
2001, David Terrell, WR, Chicago Bears (miss): He was cut after four so-so years with the Bears, then failed at two comeback attempts with New England and Denver.
2000, Plaxico Burress, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (solid): Burress caught the winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLII, but did so with the Giants. This isn’t to suggest he didn’t play well for Pittsburgh — he surpassed 1,000 yards receiving in his second and third seasons.
1999, David Boston, WR, Arizona Cardinals (miss/solid): This was a mixed bag because he made the Pro Bowl in 2001 after catching a career-best 98 passes for 1,598 yards. He did little after that between injuries and a positive test for steroids.
1998, Greg Ellis, DE, Dallas Cowboys (success): He made the Pro Bowl in 2007 when he had a career-best 12.5 sacks. He played 12 years in the NFL, all but one for the Cowboys.
1997, James Farrior, OLB, New York Jets (solid): Farrior was a two-time Pro Bowl selection, but for the Steelers and not New York, where he didn’t come into his own until his fifth season.