In 2013, the Carolina Panthers set the building blocks for their current Super Bowl run. With a 15-1 run in the regular season and two more wins in the post season, the Panthers are the current model of success and how to build a successful franchise out of nothing.
This article was inspired by this piece that Dan Kadar on the 2013 Panthers draft class, but I think in a lot of ways the Titans have a chance to build an even better class than the Panthers did that year, but more on that later.
Here is a quick summary of that class for the Panthers:
Preface, the Carolina Panthers entered this draft with only 5 picks in the entire draft. So with that little to work with, getting two stars and one very high quality backup is impressive.
1st round: Star Lotulelei DT, Utah
So a little back story on Lotulelei, for those that don't remember many people had knocked Star down because he had a heart condition come up at the combine. Before that, people had him rated as one of the top 5-10 players in that class. He was a mauling defensive tackle that is what Danny Shelton might one day become. He fell all the way to 14 it was a no brainer for the Panthers who were one of the worst run defenses in the league.
2nd round: Kawann Short DT, Purdue
This is another complete value pick that fell to the Panthers. Many people thought they would go a different direction at the time, but Dave Gettleman (their new GM) came from the New York Giants where teams were built on the defensive line first, much like current Titans GM Jon Robinson. Short was a preseason top-10 guy who had a bad year reminiscent of players in the 2016 NFL Draft class like Robert Nkemdiche, Maliek Collins, Sheldon Day, and Adolphus Washington. So, Gettleman again took value and paired it with need and came up big.
5th round: A.J. Klein LB, Iowa State
Klein has never been a big impact guy in the NFL, but he has a defined role and that is what Gettleman looks for, again like Jon Robinson. Klein is a special teams/backup linebacker who needed time to develop. Again, at a time where the Panthers had Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, Gettleman looked for value and found it. While Keuchly was out with a concussion early this year, Klein stepped up in a big way and helped keep them undefeated during his time as a starter. This is the type of pick that didn't make a splash immediately, but it paid huge dividends down the road and we may even see him tonight depending on how healthy Thomas Davis is.
So like I said earlier, this draft screams value picks all around and that is exactly what I expect Jon Robinson to do in his first year with the Titans. The big difference is that Robinson will have 8 picks instead of 5, including a 1st round pick and 4 in the top 100.
If Robinson can be as efficient as he was in Tampa Bay and New England, then the foundations for this team could be set in April. Keep in mind, even with that group they still only won seven games last year in the worst division in the NFL. So, while the picks may be right, it may take time to see real results. So remember this as we head into draft season.