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The Carolina Panthers joined the National Football League (NFL) in 1995 as the league's 29th franchise. Their first ever selection was Kerry Collins, a quarterback from Penn State, in the 1995 NFL Draft. The team's most-recent first-round selection was Kelvin Benjamin, a wide receiver from Florida State, in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Every year during April, each NFL franchise seeks to add new players to its roster through a collegiate draft officially known as "the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting" but more commonly known as the NFL Draft. Teams are ranked in inverse order based on the previous season's record, with the worst record picking first, and the second worst picking second and so on. The two exceptions to this order are made for teams that appeared in the previous Super Bowl; the Super Bowl champion always picks 32nd, and the Super Bowl loser always picks 31st. Teams have the option of trading away their picks to other teams for different picks, players, cash, or a combination thereof. Thus, it is not uncommon for a team's actual draft pick to differ from their assigned draft pick, or for a team to have extra or no draft picks in any round due to these trades.
The Panthers' only first overall selection came in 2011, when they selected Newton. They would have picked first in 2002, however, the inception of the Houston Texans that year allowed Houston to pick first instead of Carolina. Carolina had the first overall pick in their inaugural season, but traded the pick to the Bengals for the 5th and 36th overall selection. The Panthers have twice selected a Miami Hurricanes player in the first round: linebacker Dan Morgan in 2001 and Beason in 2007.
Collins, the team's first ever selection, made the Pro Bowl and led the Panthers to the playoffs in only their second season of existence, but he was later released after struggling on and off the field with alcoholism. Rae Carruth began his career as a promising wide receiver, but he was dropped from the team after being arrested for hiring someone to kill his pregnant girlfriend (he would later be convicted of the crime). Julius Peppers won Rookie of the Year, was named to the Pro Bowl on several occasions, and was the centerpiece of the Panthers' defensive line until signing with the Chicago Bears. Dan Morgan was also a highly touted Pro Bowl linebacker, but repeated concussions had caused him to miss parts of several seasons until the Panthers released him in 2008. The Panthers drafted Jon Beason in 2007 partially to insure their defense against Morgan's absence. Newton threw for 422 yards in his debut game, an NFL record, went on to set several passing records as a rookie, and won the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Kuechly led the NFL in tackles his rookie year, and won the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award one year after Newton's offensive ROTY.
When the Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars joined the league together in 1995, both teams participated in an expansion draft, where they selected players from 30 existing NFL teams. This list does not include players selected in that draft.
|1995||5||Kerry Collins||Quarterback||Penn State||Pro Bowl selection (1996)|
|1995||22||Tyrone Poole||Cornerback||Fort Valley State|
|1995||29||Blake Brockermeyer||Offensive tackle||Texas|
|1996||8||Tshimanga Biakabutuka||Running back||Michigan|
|1997||27||Rae Carruth||Wide receiver||Colorado|
|1998||14||Jason Peter||Defensive end||Nebraska|
|2000||23||Rashard Anderson||Defensive back||Jackson State|||
|2001||11||Dan Morgan||Linebacker||Miami (FL)||Pro Bowl selection (2004), All-Pro selection (2004)|
|2002||2||Julius Peppers||Defensive end||North Carolina||Defensive Rookie of the Year, 8 Pro Bowl selections (2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), 6 All-Pro selections (2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012)|
|2003||8||Jordan Gross||Offensive tackle||Utah||3 Pro Bowl selections (2008, 2010, 2013), All-Pro selection (2008)|
|2004||28||Chris Gamble||Cornerback||Ohio State||Pro Football Weekly All-Rookie Team selection.|
|2006||27||DeAngelo Williams||Running back||Memphis||Pro Bowl selection (2009), All-Pro selection (2008)|
|2007||25||Jon Beason||Linebacker||Miami (FL)||3 Pro Bowl selections (2008, 2009, 2010), 2 All-Pro selections (2008, 2009)|
|2008||13||Jonathan Stewart||Running back||Oregon|
|2008||19||Jeff Otah||Offensive tackle||Pittsburgh|||
|2011||1||Cam Newton||Quarterback||Auburn||Offensive Rookie of the Year, 2 Pro Bowl selections (2011), (2013), NFL single-season record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback|
|2012||9||Luke Kuechly||Linebacker||Boston College||Defensive Rookie of the Year, Pro Bowl selection (2013), All-Pro selection (2013), Defensive MVP (2013)|
|2013||14||Star Lotulelei||Defensive tackle||Utah|
|2014||28||Kelvin Benjamin||Wide receiver||Florida State|