Carolina Panthers

Panthers' 2005 draft a bust on many levels

Carolina safety Quinton Teal remained on the roster, although many others were cut.
Carolina safety Quinton Teal remained on the roster, although many others were cut.

CHARLOTTE -- When the Carolina Panthers released disappointing running back Eric Shelton on Saturday, it simply added another chapter to one of the team's darkest hours.

The 2005 draft was supposed to be when they began replacing some of the aging stars who helped them to a Super Bowl, but it turned into a ridiculous collection of busts, with Shelton standing as the prime example of their lost weekend.

Though he was their second-round pick that year, the 54th overall choice, he left here with just eight carries for 23 yards in two seasons.

Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said the decision to cut Shelton had more to do with their desire to keep Alex Haynes than anything they held against the wasted pick.

"I think it's always disappointing," Hurney said. "I think Eric came in, and really had done everything we had asked of him since he'd been here. But there are times, I think if you're in this business long enough, you know there's going to be some players who don't make it as far as high draft choices or high-priced free agents. Hopefully you do the best you can and make more right decisions than ones that don't work out.

"It just came down to the fact we had some guys there we decided to keep ahead of him."

That the guy they preferred was an undrafted rookie, who spent last year in NFL Europe and on their practice squad, only underscores how abject a failure Shelton was here.

They hoped the 6-foot-1, 246-pounder was going to be the power-back that took over for Stephen Davis, but he never came close.

Neither did many of his draft classmates.

All total, the Panthers accumulated 10 picks in the 2005 selection meeting, but only four remain on their current roster -- first-rounder Thomas Davis, third-rounder Evan Mathis and fifths Adam Seward and Geoff Hangartner. Of the group, only Davis starts, though the other three have at points.

The Panthers began the draft weekend with three compensatory picks, and picked up a pair of fourth-rounders for trading down nine spots in the second round. Seattle used that pick to take future Pro Bowl linebacker Lofa Tatupu, while the Panthers chose Shelton later than they probably would have without the trade.

They then parlayed two fourths for an extra third so they could take defensive tackle Atiyyah Ellison, who would become the highest-drafted player released in final cuts that year.

And since Ellison was cut again by Baltimore on Saturday, there are only two of the six gone from here who have work in the league this morning.

Sixth-rounder Jovan Haye is expected to start at defensive tackle for Tampa Bay, and seventh-rounder Joe Berger survived in Dallas, where he's a backup guard.

The rest of the class was filled with guys who still have the Panthers scratching their heads.

Fourth-round quarterback Stefan LeFors is now a backup with the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos, having lost the third job to undrafted Brett Basanez last year. Sixth-round safety Ben Emanuel was cut by talent-poor Cleveland in June, after never doing a thing here to show why he was chosen at all.

Since that draft, the Panthers have had some turnover in the group that picks the players. Former college scouting director Tony Softli left in 2006 to become the vice president of player personnel, and the Panthers replaced him with longtime scout Don Gregory.

The results have been better the last two years, as only one of the 16 players chosen since then didn't make the final 53-man roster Saturday (2007 seventh-round safety C.J. Wilson).

Shelton could get a chance to latch on, particularly in Atlanta, where the Falcons are thin in the backfield and his old college coach Bobby Petrino remembers when he was good at football.

Hurney didn't offer much of an opinion as to whether that might happen. Of course, seeing him twice a year with a division rival might be something the Panthers would want.

"We're so busy with our own issues today," Hurney said. "At this point, he's on the waiver wire and it's out of our control where he goes. Again, I think he's a good player, and we feel he's going to be playing somewhere. Probably find out sometime tomorrow where that is."

• Panthers notebook • 7D

• Depth chart, final cuts • 7D

Related stories from Rock Hill Herald