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NFL draft: A wide receiver would thrill Carolina Panthers fans, especially on draft day

Tom Sorensen
Tom Sorensen has been a columnist at The Observer for about three decades, writing about nearly every sport in the Carolinas.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/05/19/00/1qNOa5.Em.138.jpeg|229
    John Raoux - AP
    The draft is deep at receiver, and Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin might be an option for Carolina’s first pick. Should the team opt for a left tackle, Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio (below) could receive consideration. NFL.com draft analyst Mike Mayock ranks Kouandjio 24th on his top 100 draft prospects.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/05/19/00/Xcaeh.Em.138.jpeg|473
    Jonathan Bachman - AP
    LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. runs with the ball during NFL football pro day, Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Baton Rouge, La.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/05/19/00/13VUTR.Em.138.jpeg|208
    Steve Dykes - Getty Images
    CORVALLIS, OR - OCTOBER 26: Wide receiver Brandin Cooks #7 of the Oregon State Beavers runs back a punt during the fourth quarter of the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Reser Stadium on October 26, 2013 in Corvallis, Oregon. Stanford won the game 20-12.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/05/19/00/PgRkq.Em.138.jpeg|222
    Bob Leverone - AP
    Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin (1) runs past Duke's Ross Cockrell (6) for a touchdown in the second half of the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship NCAA football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/05/19/00/1hX1Dz.Em.138.jpeg|197
    Wally Skalij - MCT
    USC reciever Marquise Lee, right, makes a 57-yard catch against Arizona defender in the first quarter in Tucson, Arizona, Saturday, October 27, 2012.

The Carolina Panthers are deeper at wide receiver than most believe. Tavarres King or Marvin McNutt, who already are on the roster, could start this season. They aren’t well known. That doesn’t mean they can’t play.

But they aren’t candidates to be a No. 1 receiver, at least not in 2014. Despite what management says about not needing a No. 1 receiver, the Panthers need a No. 1 receiver.

On third or fourth down – thank you, Riverboat Ron – Cam Newton needs a wideout he knows will separate from defenders and, if the pass is near him, snatch it.

That player is not on the roster any more than a starting left tackle is. The Panthers need a left tackle, as Scott Fowler and everybody else perceptively points out.

But more than a big man, they require a receiver who can get open deep, turn a 5-yard slant into a 50-yard gain and perpetually attract the double-team.

If Brandin Cooks, Marqise Lee or Odell Beckham Jr. is available, Carolina should leap.

Let’s assume Beckham, out of Louisiana State, is gone.

Let’s assume that Cooks of Oregon State and Lee of Southern California also might be.

But we don’t know that. People read that a player is going to, say, Kansas City and assume it’s true. Did you think Utah’s Star Lotulelei would be available when the Panthers picked 15th last season? Nobody did. Aren’t you thrilled he was?

Cooks is 5-foot-10, 189, about the same size as former – still a strange term to apply – Carolina receiver Steve Smith. He can’t do all the things Smith did. Remember the old Jake Delhomme play: Steve Go Deep and Outjump the 6-1 Cornerback? Don’t expect that from Cooks.

Expect instant acceleration, great speed and good hands. Expect a No. 1 receiver.

Lee, 6-0 and 192 pounds, will be compared to Dwayne Jarrett, another former Trojans receiver and former Panther. Jarrett was misunderstood. He did some very good work for Carolina. But he did it on Wednesdays.

Lee is not as tall, he’s faster and he won’t self-destruct. He’s great with the ball after the catch, is a three-year starter and, like Cooks, will lift the receivers around him.

If Beckham, Cooks and Lee are gone, GM Dave Gettleman can select receiver Cody Latimer of Indiana, maybe, perhaps, possibly 6-5 Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State or even a left tackle.

But if Cooks or Lee trickles down, the Panthers should be thrilled. So should their fans and Scott Fowler.

Sorensen: 704-358-5119; tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @tomsorensen
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