Fox Charlotte, in a story no one else has picked up on, claims that Carolina almost traded for Peyton Manning.
Speculation on Poole makes sense, since he was traded to the Colts that year. Chances are, along with Collins and Poole (both picks of former GM Bill Polian), the Colts and Polian would've expected at least two first round picks and possibly that year's second rounder.
According to the draft value chart, with Carolina at 14, on picks alone it would've taken the second round pick value to get to the value of the 7th pick, which is worth half of what the #1 is. Poole's value is set at a 3rd because of the draft, so Indianapolis would have to think of Collins as worth a top 15 pick that year or Carolina would've had to give up future picks.
Chances are, it never got that far, and Archie Manning never really suggests how far it did go.
Of course, by staying the course, Carolina was able to do the following things instead:
*cut Kerry Collins four games into the season
*Spent 3 firsts, 2 3rds to get four players for a 3-man defensive line that would include Sean Gilbert, Jason Peter, Chuck Wiley, and immediate bust Mitch Marrow
*traded that year's 2nd to get a 2000 1st that would become Rashard Anderson, and used the 5th rounder to pick a longsnapper, Jerry Jensen (not to be confused with current snapper JJ Jansen), that didn't make the team a year later.
We also saved Steve Beuerlein's fragile sensibilities for two more years. Beuerlein, already having had to go through the grooming of Troy Aikman, Mark Brunell, Collins, and eventually failed to give way to Jeff Lewis in 2000 late in the season when Carolina was out of playoff contention. The move was quiet, but caused problems with the staff, which eventually released him so he could groom yet another quarterback.
Peyton wouldn't have saved the 1998 Panthers, or their terrible Gil Haskell offense. He wouldn't have been a good fit for that WCO, either. Certainly, in the end, just not having Gilbert would've been nice, and George Seifert would've loved having the table set for him with a future superstar.
No one Carolina ended up with, has made it within the neighborhood of Manning's greatness, and most players in 1998 and its aftermath were almost immediately busts. Excepting Tom Brady, who Seifert liked but would pass on drafting in 2000 because QBs coach/coordinator Bill Musgrave stated his footspeed wasn't good enough, no one has been more successful.