The Carolina Panthers had never drafted a Florida Gator — until the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft on Saturday, when they changed that by selecting Jordan Scarlett.
The Panthers made Scarlett their first-ever Gator draftee with the 16th pick of the fifth round, and the No. 154 overall choice.
Carolina had been the only NFL franchise to never draft a Florida player since 2002, when the Houston Texans drafted Jabar Gaffney with their second NFL Draft pick ever in their first season of existence.
What the Panthers are getting in Scarlett might sell them on the possibility of drafting Gators again in the future. He ran for 776 yards and five touchdowns as a redshirt junior in 2018, seeming not to have missed a step after sitting out the entire 2017 season in the wake of a suspension for his role in a credit card fraud scheme that ensnared several Gators.
And Scarlett, who rarely went down on first contact, also brought his tenacity to bear as a pass-blocker throughout his Florida career, making him a multifaceted back despite shaky hands as a receiver.
Scarlett, the fifth and final of Florida’s five early entrants to the 2019 NFL Draft to be selected, will also be stepping into a backfield with significant intrigue swirling around it this summer — and joining a pair of former Gators.
Carolina’s incumbent starting quarterback is Cam Newton, obviously, but his seeming entrenchment with the Panthers in that role has been eroded a bit over the past 12 months, with a shoulder injury limiting him throughout the 2018 season and eventually requiring offseason surgery. And so the Panthers also drafting their first quarterback since Newton — Florida-turned-West Virginia signal-caller and Charlotte native Will Grier, taken with the No. 100 pick on Friday — will be viewed with a curious eye by many, even if Grier is clearly being selected as a backup.
And so Scarlett, who will be poised to be the Panthers’ No. 2 running back behind do-everything runner/receiver Christian McCaffrey, is likely to be getting his handoffs from someone who wore the same uniform he did in college.