Top 10 Carolina Panthers in NFL History
Despite being one of the leagues youngest franchises, they have had their fair share of success in the league. Today, I rank the top 10 Carolina Panthers of all time.
10. Brad Hoover
He was one of the last great blocking fullbacks.
Most NFL fans are familiar with the "Moooose!" chant that followed Dallas Cowboys fullback Daryl Johnston everywhere he went, but not nearly as many remember the "Hoooov!" chant often directed at Panthers fullback Brad Hoover. Perhaps they should. The year after Johnston, one of the most productive and popular fullbacks in the NFL history, retired, Hoover joined the Panthers as an undrafted free agent. From 2000 until his retirement a decade later, Hoover came close to mirroring Johnston's accomplishments and became a fan favorite in his own right along the way. Hoover never had a back quite like Emmitt Smith for which to plow a path, but he helped three different backs top 1,000 yards and cleared lanes for Nick Goings to rush for more than 800 yards. He also could tote the load if asked, rushing for 117 yards in a memorable "Monday Night Football" game as a rookie.
Hoover was the definition of reliable, missing just eight career games at a brutal position.
9. Wesley Walls
He is one of the most forgotten tight ends in league history.
After spending time in San Francisco and New Orleans, Wesley Walls signed with Carolina in 1996. During his seven seasons as a Carolina Panther, he excelled at the tight end position. His tenure proved to be his breakout opportunity as he recorded 324 receptions and 44 touchdowns in his time in Carolina.
Walls spent his final season in Green Bay before retiring in 2003. He was a five time pro bowler and four time All-Pro.
8. DeAngelo Williams
He has quietly been one of the most productive running backs playing today.
A first round pick in 2006, DeAngelo Williams was brought in to be a complement to DeShaun Foster. By 2008, he became the full time starter and set a franchise record for rushing touchdowns in a game by scoring four touchdowns in a week 13 game against the Packers and finished the season with 1,515 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns to go along with 22 catches for 121 yards and 2 more touchdowns. In 2009, Williams and Jonathan Stewart became the first running back duo in NFL History to rush for 1,110 yards apiece as well as becoming the first Panther running back to rush for 1,000 in consecutive seasons.
In his eight seasons in Carolina, Williams has been a 2009 pro bowler, 2008 All-Pro, and is Carolina's all time leading rusher.
7. Kris Jenkins
He was the ideal inside defensive tackle.
A second round pick in 2001, Kris Jenkins made an immediate impact on the defensive line. He finished the 2002 season with 60 tackles and 7 sacks. The following season, he helped the Panthers on their way to an appearance in Super Bowl XXXVIII. That season, Jenkins blocked two kicks in a game against Tampa Bay that would ultimately be deciding factors in the teams victory. Multiple injuries affected his play during his later years with the team.
Jenkins was traded the Jets before the 2008 season. He retired after 2010 as a four time pro bowler, three time All-Pro, and NFC champion.
6. Luke Kuechly
He is the most productive middle linebacker in franchise history.
A first round pick in 2012, Luke Kuechly has quickly made an impact on the league. As a rookie, he led the league with 164 tackles during the regular season and recorded eight pass deflections, one sack, two interceptions, and three fumble recoveries and was named the defensive rookie of the year. In 2013, Kuechly became the leader of a stingy Panthers defense that finished the season as runner-up in points and yards allowed and won the defensive player of the year award. He joined Lawrence Taylor as the only players in history to win defensive rookie of the year and defensive player of the year in consecutive seasons.
In his two seasons in the league, Kuechly has already established himself as one of the NFL's best middle linebackers.
5. Cam Newton
His combination of mobility and arm strength have changed the way quarterback's are scouted.
The first overall pick in 2011, Cam Newton quickly became Carolina's best assist. In his rookie year he broke the single game passing record by a rookie twice. He also broke the record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a season. After several rookie and league records broken, Newton was named the rookie of the year. His mobility and arm strength along with his tall frame have distinguished himself from any other quarterback in the league. In his three seasons, he has thrown for over 11,000 yards and 64 touchdowns while also rushing for over 2,000 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Newton has been a two time pro bowler, rookie of the year, and holds numerous records for passing and rushing.
4. Muhsin Muhammad
"Moose" was as productive as any receiver in his time in the league.
The Panthers version of "Moooose" posted remarkable numbers in 2004 and got all due acclaim for it, earning All-Pro status after catching 93 passes for 1,405 yards and 16 touchdowns. Beyond that season Muhammad often was viewed nationally as just another receiver. His numbers say otherwise. Muhammad, who retired following the 2009 season, is in rarer air than many realize. He ranks 17th in NFL history with 860 career receptions. He ranks 24th all-time with 11,438 receiving yards. His 85-yard touchdown in Super Bowl XXXVIII remains the longest reception in the history of the game. Muhammad was huge in 2004 and also enjoyed two other seasons with over 90 catches and over 1,100 yards. He led the NFC in receptions in 1999 and 2000, but he amassed such impressive, often-overlooked career numbers through consistency: After totaling 52 catches in a limited role over his first two seasons, Muhammad caught at least 50 passes in each of his final nine seasons with the Panthers.
Muhammad retired after 2009 as a two time pro bowler, a 2004 All-Pro, and lead the league in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in 2004.
3. Sam Mills
"The Field Mouse" was crucial in making Carolina a contender early on.
After spending years in New Orleans, Sam Mills signed with the expansion Panthers in 1995. became a veteran leader for the young team, the only player to start every game during the Panthers' first three seasons. An interception in a 1995 season game sealed the Panthers first ever victory in franchise history against the New York Jets. His career rebirth gave him allowed him to lead the Panthers to the NFC Championship game in 1996. Mills holds the NFL record for the oldest player to return a fumble for a touchdown.
Mills retired after 1997 and became a Carolina assistant coach. His battle with cancer was the team's inspiration for their 2003 Super Bowl run.
2. Julius Peppers
He is arguably the best pass rushing defensive end playing today.
A first round pick in 2002, Julius Peppers made an instant impact on the defense. He won the defensive rookie of the year award after recording 12 sacks and five forced fumbles. In 2004, he set a record for an NFL defensive lineman by recording a 97 yard interception return in a game against the Broncos. Peppers would also set an NFL record by recording 143 total interception return yards which is the most ever recorded in a single season by a defensive lineman. He is the Panthers all time leader in sacks and forced fumbles.
Peppers left for Chicago before 2010 and is currently a member of the Packers. He has been an eight time pro bowler, six time All-Pro, and NFC champion.
1. Steve Smith
Despite his size, he has become the most productive receiver in team history.
A third round pick in 2001, Steve Smith would prove to be a great impact player for the team. As a rookie he led all rookies in kick return yardage. By 2002, he broke into the starting line up. After breaking his leg in 2004, Smith came back the next year to lead the league in receptions, yards, and touchdowns in the same season. In his 13 seasons in Carolina, he amassed 832 receptions for 12,197 yards and 67 touchdowns. He holds an NFL record for highest punt return average in a single game.
Smith left for Baltimore prior to the 2014 season. He has five time pro bowler, three time All-Pro, 2005 comeback player of the year, the 2005 receiving Triple Crown, and the Panthers all time leading receiver.