Carolina's all-time picks: No. 2 Peppers

April, 25, 2014
Apr 25
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Next on my ranking of the top five draft picks in the history of the Carolina Panthers is a player that the Houston Texans to this day probably regret not taking with the top pick.

Meet No. 2:

Peppers
Julius Peppers, 1st round, No. 2 overall, 2002 out of North Carolina -- The Texans had a chance to take Peppers first, but opted for David Carr. The Fresno State star went on to be considered one of the worst quarterback busts in draft history. The Panthers wound up with Peppers, who went on to become the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2002, the team's all-time sack leader (81) and an eight-time Pro Bowl selection -- five with the Panthers before moving on to Chicago.

Many that follow the Panthers refuse to acknowledge Peppers as one of the team's all-time players -- much less draft picks -- because they feel betrayed that he left after the 2009 season for a six-year, $91.5 million deal with the Bears. Carolina, by the way, offered the North Carolina native a four-year deal worth $54 million

You could argue Peppers doesn't belong here because he was expected to excel. Well, the Texans thought Carr would excel, and look what happened there.

You also could argue the Panthers took a chance because Peppers came with the reputation that he took plays off at the University of North Carolina. Whether you believe he did that with the Panthers or not, the plays he made were too good to ignore when compiling this list. Besides the sacks, Peppers had a team-record eight career blocked field goals and record 30 forced fumbles. In 2004, he had an NFL single-season record 143 interception return yards. That included a 97-yarder returned for a touchdown that also was a record for an NFL lineman.

Peppers was good enough to make the NFL's all-decade team for the 2000s. He's easily good enough to be on Carolina's list of all-time draft picks.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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