That is why I like to give at least 3 full seasons before I make my assessment on whether a player is a bust or a beast.
First Round: #14 overall, LB/S Thomas Davis
Davis was eyed as a linebacker when selected, but spend his rookie season jumping from linebacker to safety back to linebacker back to safety because of injuries to teammates. Davis' first full season as a linebacker came in 06, where he amassed 96 tackles and 1.5 sacks while playing in 14 games. In 2007, Davis started all 16 games, totalling 85 tackles, 3 sacks and 1 interception.
Davis is fast and hard-hitting, but his recognition skills are still under construction.
Second Round: #22 overall, RB Eric Shelton
The Panthers viewed Eric Shelton as the big-back compliment to DeShaun Foster, filling in for the jettisoned Stephen Davis in the bell cow role. His collegiate records were unquestionably impressive, as he totaled 1,728 yards on 312 carries (5.5 avg) and had 30 rushing touchdowns. Shelton, however, never could catch on with the Panthers, finding himself in the doghouse allegedly because he could not learn the playbook, was not a willing blocker and was not a hard worker in practice. In two seasons with the Panthers, Shelton carried the ball for a total of 23 yards. Was cut prior to the 2007 season. This pick originally belonged to the Seahawks, who traded the Panthers their 3rd round pick in exchange for swapping places in the second round. The Seahawks selected pro bowl MLB Lofa Tutupu with the original panther selection.
Third Round: #79 overall, OL Evan Mathis
Mathis was the first of two third round selections the panthers had due to trading down in the previous round. Mathis saw action in his rookie season playing only on special teams in 9 games. In 2006, Mathis started 15 games at right guard, but did nothing to impress the coaching staff. In 2007 Mathis only played in 1 game, the season finale against Tampa Bay.
Mathis may not make the 2008 edition of the Carolina Panthers. He has gotten into arguments with his position coach in the past during training camp and saw his playing time significantly decrease last season.
Third Round: #89 overall, DL Atiyyah Ellison
Sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss. This would be the equivalent of knocking yourself out with your own bat as you swing at the ball.
Atiyyah Ellison had the honor of being the highest-selected player in the 2005 NFL draft cut before the season started. Was it a matter of the team already having deep talent at the position? If so, why was he even selected at all? Give the staff credit for cutting their losses early, however, and not sticking with him too long like they have with nearly every other under-performing player. Ellison has bounced around practice squads for the last three season but hasn't played a meaningful snap in the NFL yet.
BUST (big time) -- Other players available: LB Leroy Hill, OL Nick Kaczur, RB Marion Barber
Fourth Round: #121 overall, QB Stefan LeFors
Sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss, and then sometimes you lose concentration, maybe something was in your eye, and air-ball a free throw. LeFors, despite having to compete with Dave Ragone and Brian Brohm at Louisville, had a stellar career at Louisville and looked to be the future at QB for the Carolina Panthers. He had a good preseason showing in 2005 and was third on the depth chart behind Jake Delhomme and Chirs Weinke. Everything seemed to be going in the right direction.
Then came 2006. The Panthers decided to keep undrafted rookie Brett Basanez and veteran Chris Weinke instead of LeFors, who doesn't have the prototypical height that many think is necessary to be successful in the NFL. LeFors seemingly has caught on in the CFL with the Edmonton Eskimoes. Despite only starting in 5 games during the 2007 season, LeFors threw for 1193 yards, 6 TDs and completed 60.8% of his passes.
BEAST -- The Panthers made a bad decision by keeping Weinke instead of LeFors.
After the fourth round, generally, if players stay on your roster more than two seasons, it's considered a "hit" by getting contributing talent late in the draft.
In the last three rounds, the Panthers selected:
LB Adam Seward, (BEAST) who has been a good special teams player in the last three seasons
OL Geoff Hangartner, (BEAST)who is a solid offensive lineman and a top reserve going into 2008
S Ben Emanuel, (BUST) who is no longer on the team and isn't listed in the current NFL.com player database
DL Jovan Haye, (BEAST) who was cut by Carolina in 2006 and is now starting for division rival Tampa Bay
and OL Joe Berger, (BEAST) who was cut by the panthers in 2005 is still in the league with Dallas.
Summary: The Panthers got decent talent in the first round with Thomas Davis, but largely either picked the wrong guy or cut the wrong guy. OL Geoff Hangartner is the only other solid player the Panthers have besides Davis from this draft. It's likely that Hangartner and Davis will be the only players out of 10 total selections that make it to the 2008 final roster.
Can the Panthers evaluate talent? It seems that they can, because when they cut players, those players go elsewhere and play well. Can they coach the talent they select? It seems as though they can't, as they have only 2 players out of 4 first day picks to be at LEAST a contributor (let's not even talk about getting starters).