Mel Kiper from ESPN released his first mock draft on Wednesday and his selection for the Panthers isn't wholly terrible, but it shows a fundamental lack of understanding.
Kiper is giving the Panthers an uber-productive wide receiver who had a stellar 2013 season.
28. Brandin Cooks (Oregon State)
Analysis: Wide receiver is obviously a huge need for the Panthers, and while it's popular to look for matchup threats in today's game, the matchup threat of a receiver who is really hard to cover is a constant, and Cooks has a great ability to free himself. He's explosive both before and after the catch, with quick feet and the ability to change direction without a loss of speed or wasted motion, and he's got great ball awareness and hands. A player whom some will probably compare to Steve Smith based just on size could certainly learn from the master and help the Panthers in the immediate term.
Cooks' season was nothing short of miraculous. He finished with 128 receptions for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns, on four occasions he finished with over 150 receiving yards and gained over 200 yards in three games.
The problem with projecting Cooks to Carolina is that he's little, really little. At 5'10" it's tempting to draw Steve Smith comparisons, but he doesn't really play like Smith -- who does? We're left with a receiver who's more Randall Cobb than Smitty, and while that isn't wholly bad it still creates fundamental problems mocking him to Carolina.
The Panthers are size-obsessed. It's inconsequential whether you think this is right, wrong, or something in between, they are. Beyond the phrase "hog mollies" and the two defensive tackle picks last year it's abundantly clear Dave Gettleman comes from a school of thought that big players win, regardless of the top-end speed craved around the league.
This modus operandi isn't a bad one, look no further than Alshon Jeffery and Keenan Allen vastly out-performing their peers. Both have size, and both win because of it. Gettleman tipped his hat to this idea further when he said it was "no coincidence" that both the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks are "wide bodied teams." He's making a point about the defense, but it further speaks to size winning out.
2014 is a receiver-rich draft. Sammy Watkins might be unattainable, but guys like Kelvin Benjamin, Allen Robinson and Jordan Matthews could be -- all of whom have size. That's what you need to look for at receiver for this team.