CHARLOTTE – After serving a complementary role in 26 war rooms, Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman will take the lead for the first time when the 2013 NFL Draft begins at 8 p.m. on Thursday night.
"I've seen it. I've watched it," Gettleman said, "and I've always sat back and said, ‘OK, what are you going to do if you get the opportunity?'"
First, he had to complete more prep work.
"Considerably more," Gettelman said. "Believe me, I've looked at a ton of tape."
He'll rely on the evaluation skills and experience he obtained as a scout and player personnel executive to draft the newest Panthers.
"I'm going to go with my instincts."
And he wants to hear what everyone else in Carolina's war room has to say.
"I've got final say, but one person can't do this now," Gettleman said. "The volume is huge. You've got college scouts that have been on the road for nine months. You've got to get their input.
"The best thing I can do is just listen to what people are saying."
Gettleman said he expects to select potential opening day starters in the first two rounds of this draft. As rookies, Gettleman insists those draft choices must be seamless fits.
"I've seen it over and over again," Gettleman said. "When you draft guys, especially in the first two rounds, that don't fit you philosophically, you are going to get into trouble."
This first draft of the Gettleman era in Carolina may not have the star power that last year's possessed with quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III headlining the class, but there are plenty of day one starters – particularly at offensive and defensive line – available in the early rounds.
There is also the intrigue of the big name wildcards.
There's Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman candidate Manti Te'o, whose national championship game letdown and off-field drama has left many wondering where he'll fall.
There's former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, a onetime Heisman hopeful who was dismissed from the Tigers due to drug problems. Will teams be willing to give the talented defensive back a chance in light of his troubled past?
Will there be a quarterback or running back drafted in the first round? As surprising as it sounds, some say both positions might be waiting until round two.
The long scouting season, analyzing, speculating and dissecting finally comes to an end Thursday when teams wait anxiously to take their turn on the clock.
It's been a whirlwind couple of months for Gettleman since he became the Panthers general manager in January, but the process leading up to draft day is one he's thoroughly enjoyed. Now it's time to make the picks.
"The process has been terrific. There has been great communication," Gettleman said. "There has been great conversation about players and what we're looking for. I'm having a ball."