Carolina entered the draft with the 31st overall pick, but gave up a fourth-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers to move up three spots to take Gamble, a player they had rated very highly on their draft board coming into the day.
"We didn't expect him to him to fall that close to us, so when he got that close to us we thought it was a wise thing to do to move up and get him," said Panthers general manager Marty Hurney.
"We thought there was a chance that he might not be there when we got to our pick. We try to target a group of players, and that group was getting thin. We thought for what we had to give up (a fourth-round pick) it was worth giving it to go up."
Not surprisingly, the Panthers turned to wide receiver in the second round, selecting wide receiver Keary Colbert from Southern Cal with the 62nd overall pick. Carolina closed out the first day of the draft by taking offensive lineman Travelle Wharton from South Carolina with their third-round draft pick, 94th overall.
By drafting a cornerback, wide receiver and offensive lineman, the Panthers addressed three of their biggest needs on the first day of the draft.
The 6-foot-1, 198-poound Gamble was the fourth cornerback taken on Saturday, behind only Virginia Tech's DeAngelo Hall, South Carolina's Dunta Robinson and Arkansas' Ahmad Carroll. Although the Panthers have an opening at starting cornerback opposite Ricky Manning Jr., in all likelihood it may take Gamble at least half a season before he's ready to step in and start. A
lthough he's an outstanding athlete with raw skills, Gamble is still learning the cornerback position.
That's because Gamble began his career at Ohio State as a wide receiver, later moving to defense prior to his sophomore season where he helped lead them to a national championship.
Gamble played cornerback two seasons prior to entering the NFL draft earlier this spring as a junior on the advice on his agent and some NFL scouts.
"He's inexperienced in that he's a junior, but I'd say he played on a pretty good football team and he was an integral part of their success, too," Panthers coach John Fox said. "So we expect him to do the same thing here.
"He didn't play at Podunk University. He's been in some big spots. Playing on a national championship stage is big, particularly for a young guy. Their coaching staff didn't have any problem putting him in that setting. It'll be like that every week here."
Gamble could also figure into the Panthers' special teams, possibly giving Steve Smith a breather on punt returns. Gamble returned punts and kickoffs for the Buckeyes. But for right now, he wants to fit in anyway he can.
"I'm very excited right now," Gamble said. "I know that Carolina has a really good defense. The cornerbacks there are really good and really aggressive. I just want to go in and learn and try to contribute."
Colbert is expected to contribute as a third receiver this season, but eventually could be groomed to be a starter.
Colbert seemed genuinely excited to be coming to Carolina.
"My eyes lit up when I saw where I was going," Colbert said. "This is exciting. It's been a long time coming. This is what I've been working toward for such a long time, it's kind of like reality now and it's all settling in."
Wharton was a four-year starter at left tackle for the Gamecocks.
Day two of the Carolina Panthers' NFL Draft was more about ACLs and SATs than X's and O's.
The Panthers selected three players who are certainly talented and intriguing, but also have some considerable question marks surrounding their potential in the league.
Day two began just like day one with the Panthers selecting an Ohio State player, wide receiver Drew Carter, with their fifth round pick.
Carter, who has 4.3 speed in the 40 and good size, appeared on the verge of a breakout senior season for the Buckeyes prior to tearing the ACL in his right knee in the eighth game of the season.
Carter is still rehabilitating the injury and won't participate in the team's minicamp this coming weekend, but his 4.4 time in the 40 last week - and the fact he has good height at 6-feet-3 -- was enough to convince the Panthers to take a chance on him.
"He's very fast and is a guy that will help us, but may take some time this year to get better," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said. "But he was too good of a talent to pass up." Carter just needs to stay healthy.
He tore the ACL in his left knee in 2001. But the most recent knee injury, which came at a time when he was just starting to bloom into a college star last season, was difficult for Carter to take.
"It was hard," Carter said. "You start seven or eight games and things are going well, and you're finally getting more balls thrown to you.
Things were rolling, so it was devastating. But you've got to take it in stride. I feel like my work ethic and my faith brought me through it.
"I'm a hard worker - and I think that's why a team like Carolina took me a chance on me, because they know I've got a good work ethic and I'm not one to give up too easily."
Carter, one of two receivers drafted by Carolina over the weekend, was thrilled to be reunited with college teammate Chris Gamble, the Panthers' first-round draft pick on Saturday.
"When I saw I got drafted, I was like, 'I'm going to be with Chris.' It's always cool to be with someone that you've already been with forthe past four years," Carter said.
Overall, the Panthers were happy with the way the weekend went and are eager to get a chance to see their new players on the field for the first time this weekend.
"You never know on a draft until you get them here and get a chance to look at them. But I feel good about our picks," Hurney said.
But Hurney refused to speculate on whether or not this year's draft will produce as many good players as the last three.
"You don't know with drafting until two or three years down the road," Hurney said. "But the decision making process was the same and we feel good about it. Hopefully the results will be the same."
BEST PICK: Chris Gamble may be a bit of a, well, gamble. He's not very smart (he scored a 9 on the Wonderlic test) and that may come back to haunt them. The best pick may be second round draft choice Keary Colbert, a wide receiver from USC.
COULD SURPRISE: Michael Gaines admits it was a big mistake, one that he's trying to put behind him.
When he was a senior at Tallahassee (Fla.) High School, Gaines admitted to having someone take the SAT for him in order to get into the University of Alabama. Gaines was later busted and expelled from Alabama and forced to transfer to Central Florida.
"I was young. I was 18 and my God at the time was football," said Gaines, who was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the seventh round on Sunday. "During that time I wanted to get it the quick way and I took it. I was stupid for doing it.
"But during that process it made me the man I am now and made me more determined to be better in life. Life isn't a shortcut. If you look for the shortcut in life, you're going to end up going the long way anyway."
He was forced to sit out a year and transferred to UCF where he played two seasons before being ruled academically ineligible last season.
The Panthers acknowledged they've talked to Gaines about the incident and they accept the fact he made a mistake when he was young.
Gaines has tremendous upside potential, however, and if he keeps his head on straight could be a player.
"With the 31st pick in the seventh round we thought he was a guy who had some tools and decided to take a shot," Panthers GM Marty Hurney said.
A closer look at the Panthers' picks:
Round 1/28 -- Chris Gamble, CB, Ohio State A former college receiver who is still learning the cornerback position, but appears to have good speed and great skills. Intelligence may be a concern here. Panthers wanted him bad though and traded away a fourth-round pick to move up three spots to get him.
Round 2/64 -- Keary Colbert, WR, 6-3, 190, USC The Trojans' "other" receiver. A solid player who is a possession style receiver like Keenan McCardell. Could develop into a starter next season if the Panthers do not renew Muhsin Muhammad's contract, which expires after the 2004 season.
Round 3/ 94 -- Travelle Wharton, OT, 6-3, 312 South Carolina Some scouts projected he would have to move to guard, but the Panthers view him as a tackle. He could develop into a valuable backup.
Round 5/163 -- Drew Carter, WR, 6-3, 200 Ohio State Carter was developing into a college star last season when he tore his ACL. Still has 4.3 speed and good size for a receiver. But he needs to stay healthy. Can stretch the field. Probably won't contribute much as a rookie, but could down the road.
Round 6/196 -- Sean Tufts, LB, Colorado Middle linebacker who will likely play on special teams if he makes the team. An underachiever for Colorado.
Round 7/232 -- Michael Gaines, TE, Central Florida Gaines is a high risk, high reward player. Could be a huge bust or a decent tight end. Has a questionable background.