"We're not getting instant oatmeal anymore," general manager Dave Gettleman said. "We're drafting guys you have to change their diapers. It's crazy.
"Is it going to stop us from drafting a 20-year-old guy? No. It hasn't stopped us yet."
Gettleman, at the combine all week to evaluate prospects' readiness up and down the draft board, referenced legendary coach Bill Walsh's 1997 book "Finding the Winning Edge" as a still-valuable source on building an NFL team.
"Back then the NFL was getting a much more finished product than we're getting now," Gettleman said. "Now, it's really a three-year rule. You've got to understand there are going to be growing pains. Nothing is easy."
That's one of the reasons, ironically, that Gettleman prefers to build teams through the draft. The Panthers find themselves in the best salary cap situation they've been in since Gettleman took over three-plus years ago, but he still prefers to pay Panthers "lifers" developed in the system while also adding players through the draft that can eventually become core players.
"We shopped at Tiffany's last year. TD, Greg, Luke and Cam - that cost more than a bag of doughnuts," Gettleman said, referencing offseason contract extensions for
"It's about the draft. You draft well, you develop, and those are the guys you want because those are the guys in your culture. They understand what you're looking for, how to operate, what they need to do, what's expected. That's what you want, and then you want to fill in the other way."