Why Panthers won't trade up in first round

May, 2, 2014
May 2
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Dave Gettleman was the pro personnel director for the New York Giants when general manager Jerry Reese asked him what it would take to get wide receiver Jeremy Maclin in the 2009 NFL draft.

Gettleman said the Giants, who had the 29th pick, would have to trade into the mid-teens to have a shot at the All-American out of Missouri.

Maclin went to Philadelphia at No. 19.

[+] EnlargeCody Latimer
AP Photo/Alan PetersimeThe Panthers seem more likely to wait for a receiver like Indiana's Cody Latimer rather than trade up in the first round to fill that need.
Reese stayed pat and got North Carolina wide receiver Hakeem Nicks.

"He felt comfortable enough, obviously, that if Hakeem would fall, we would take him," Gettleman recalled this week.

Gettleman, heading into his second draft as the general manager for the Carolina Panthers, mentioned this story when asked about his philosophy of trading up.

It's a great example in that Gettleman has the 28th pick and has a great need at wide receiver in arguably the deepest draft at that position since 2009.

It's also telling.

If you read between the lines, this is why the Panthers won't trade up even if one of the top wide receivers -- or even offensive tackles -- slides within 10 or so picks of Carolina.

Gettleman is from the school of you don't give up a "boatload" of draft picks for one, and you don't get focused on believing you're one specific player from being a Super Bowl team.

"It’s almost like I’ve told you guys: When you’re in free agency, the biggest danger is when you think you’re one player away, and it’s that guy," Gettleman said. "If it’s unrestricted free agency, maybe you screw your cap up. It’s going to get you in trouble. Thinking that you’re one player away is as bad as reaching for a guy [in the draft].

"It really is, because you’re more than one player away. ... That one player that you get, what happens if he gets hurt and you’ve traded away three draft picks? It’s nothing different. It’s about value. Is it possible [the Panthers trade up]? Anything’s possible."

But it's not likely.

Gettleman knows he can't get one of the top two receivers -- Clemson's Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M's Mike Evans -- who are almost guaranteed to have an immediate impact without mortgaging the farm.

He also knows the gap between LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, likely to go in the mid-teens, and Penn State's Allen Robinson or Indiana's Cody Latimer in the second round, probably isn't enough to give up give up a second-, third- or fourth-round pick.

The same goes for the tackle position.

Gettleman also is from the school of taking the best player available. That is why he wouldn't be "sad" if one of the top cornerbacks falls to 28, and he wouldn't hesitate to pick up a "blue goose" pass-rusher or defensive tackle.

If anything, Gettleman is more likely to trade down from 28 if he can get additional picks in the second and third rounds. The value of getting an additional wide receiver or tackle from this year's class in that range would be far more than the gamble of trading up.

But in all likelihood, Gettleman will do what Reese did in 2009 and be comfortable with the player who falls to 28.

It's a smart strategy. The 2009 draft is a good example again. Let's take a look at the six receivers taken in the first round that year:

  • No. 7 Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oakland: Had nine catches as a rookie and 29 in his second season. Had a career-best 64 receptions for 975 yards and four touchdowns in 2011. Had 29 catches for Indianapolis last season and was recently acquired by Pittsburgh.
  • No. 10 Michael Crabtree, San Francisco: Had 48 catches in 11 starts as a rookie. Had a career-best 85 catches for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns in 2012.
  • No. 19 Maclin, Philadelphia: Had 56 catches as a rookie and a career-best 70 in his second season for 964 yards and 10 touchdowns. Missed last season with a torn ACL.
  • No. 22 Percy Harvin, Minnesota: Had 60 catches as a rookie and a career-best 87 for 967 yards and six touchdowns in his third season. Spent last season at Seattle, where he was injured most of the year.
  • No. 29 Nicks, N.Y. Giants: Had 46 catches as a rookie, followed by 79 catches for 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns in his second season and 76 catches for 1,192 yards and seven touchdowns in his third.
  • No. 30 Kenny Britt, Tennessee: Had 42 catches in each of his first two seasons. Off-the-field issues have by far overshadowed anything he's done on the field.Nicks at the 29th pick has been just as productive as Maclin at 19. He's been more productive than Heyward-Bey at No. 7. Further reason why the Giants made the right move in standing pat: Let's say they traded their second-round pick. At No. 60, they took Will Beatty, now their starting left tackle.

    "It's how much you're willing to give up in this day and age," Gettleman said. This is why the Panthers aren't likely to move on draft day. Gettleman is more into getting than giving. That is the environment from which he developed his philosophy.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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