- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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Few if any teams have been more successful with their first pick in the NFL draft over the past three seasons than the Carolina Panthers.
In 2011, they took Auburn quarterback Cam Newton with the top pick. He went on to become the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first of two times in his three seasons.
In 2012, they took Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly with the ninth pick. He went on to become the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in his first season and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in his second.
In 2013, they took Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei with the 14th pick. He went on to be named to several all-rookie teams and anchored a defensive front line on the league's second-ranked defense.
On Thursday, the Panthers will have the 28th pick. While it's easier to hit on top-10 and top-15 players, there's no reason to think Carolina won't walk away with a player who can have an immediate impact.
The best example over the past 10 years is offensive tackle Joe Staley, taken by San Francisco with the 28th pick in 2007. He started all 16 games as a rookie and has made the Pro Bowl the past three seasons.
The next best example may be cornerback Chris Gamble, taken 28th by Carolina in 2004. Gamble started all 16 games as a rookie and finished tied for the NFC lead -- third in the NFL -- in interceptions with six. He retired after the 2012 season as the team's all-time leader in interceptions with 27.
Here's a few facts about the 28th pick over the past 10 drafts to give you an indication of what Carolina can expect:
Players averaged 8.8 starts in their rookie season.
Five players started 10 or more games; two started all 16 games.
More defensive tackles (three) have been taken than any other position. After that there are one each at linebacker, running back, center, defensive end, offensive tackle, tight end and cornerback.
Two players, offensive tackle Joe Staley (2011, 2012, 2013) and tight end Marcedes Lewis (2010), have gone on to make the Pro Bowl at least once.
Now let's take a detailed look at the players selected with the 28th pick over the past 10 drafts:
2013 -- Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina to Denver: Started four games as a rookie. Had 19 tackles and two sacks.
2012 -- Nick Perry, LB, Southern California to Green Bay: Started five games as a rookie and 11 in his first two seasons. Had two sacks and 13 tackles as a rookie; four sacks and 24 tackles in his second season.
2011 -- Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama to New Orleans: Started four games and rushed for 474 yards as a rookie. Has 12 starts and 1,462 yards rushing in three seasons.
2010 -- Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State to Miami: Had one start and one tackle as a rookie. Has 25 starts, 15.5 sacks and 81 tackles in four years.
2009 -- Eric Wood, C, Louisville to Buffalo (from Carolina via Philadelphia): Had 10 starts as a rookie and 63 starts in five seasons.
2008 -- Lawrence Jackson, DE, Southern California to Seattle: Had 14 starts with 21 tackles and two sacks as a rookie. Has 24 starts with 141 tackles and 19.5 sacks in five seasons. He did not play last season and remains a free agent.
2007 -- Joe Staley, OT, Central Michigan to San Francisco: Started 16 games as a rookie and has 98 in seven seasons, most at left tackle. A three-time Pro Bowl selection.
2006 -- Marcedes Lewis, TE, UCLA to Jacksonville: Started three games as a rookie and has 106 in eight seasons. Has 297 career catches for 3,583 yards and 25 touchdowns. Selected to the 2010 Pro Bowl.
2005 -- Luis Castillo, DT, Northwestern to San Diego: Started 15 games as a rookie, collecting 3.5 sacks and 37 tackles. Has 79 starts from 2005-11 with 19 sacks and 153 tackles. Has not played the past two seasons.
2004 -- Chris Gamble, CB, Ohio State to Carolina: Started 16 games as a rookie and finished tied for the NFC lead in interceptions with six. Had 69 tackles. From 2004 until he retired after the 2012 season, he had 117 starts with 27 interceptions and 440 tackles.
What will the 28th pick do this year? Carolina is banking on somebody who can help immediately. Stay tuned.
1dEric D. Williams
1dEric D. Williams