Tom Sorensen

Panthers top draft pick should be a wide receiver. Here are the three best options.

The NFL Network will televise 52 hours of the scouting combine in Indianapolis.
The NFL Network will televise 52 hours of the scouting combine in Indianapolis. AP

The NFL Network will televise 52 hours of the combine. Coverage begins in Indianapolis Friday and runs through Monday. It will be like the Winter Olympics, only shorter and without the curling.

The combine will offer an opportunity to see the players we hope the Carolina Panthers select in the 2018 draft, which begins April 26, as well as introduce us to players we suddenly will realize they should select.

On opening day, we’ll see the running backs, offensive linemen and special teams.

Like everybody else, I suspect the Panthers will take a defensive end, cornerback or receiver. I hope they invest the 24th pick in the first round on a receiver.

When Ted Ginn Jr. left before the 2017 season for New Orleans, the Panthers immediately became lesser. Ginn can do one thing; he can go deep. Defensive coordinators had to account for him. When Cam Newton stepped into his throw, you knew where the ball would go.

Without Ginn last season, Carolina’s offense contracted. Defenses no longer had to set up to accommodate Ginn.

The Panthers did take Curtis Samuel in the second round of last year’s draft. The man runs a 4.3. But he was hurt early, and he was hurt late, and he never became a threat. He’s a hybrid, not unlike Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey is a running back that can play receiver, Samuel a receiver that can play in the backfield.

I hope the Panthers add another receiver. You can have more than one guy that flies. They have speed returning. But they need a star. Some fans ripped Ginn when he was in Charlotte for dropping passes. He doesn’t have great hands. But simply by lining up, he changed the way defenses had to play.

If the Panthers use their first pick on a receiver, he ought to be James Washington of Oklahoma State, Courtland Sutton of SMU or Christian Kirk of Texas A&M.

Sutton is 6-4, Kirk 5-11, Washington 5-10. I like the latter two. If I’m making the pick, I go with Kirk. I like his instincts and his quickness.

Receivers, and quarterbacks and tight ends, work out at the combine Saturday. Kirk, Washington and Sutton will be there..

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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