- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay remain convinced that the Carolina Panthers will take a wide receiver with the 28th pick of the NFL draft.
I'm still not.
Yes, wide receiver is the No. 1 need. The Panthers must bring in a threat to play opposite the aging Steve Smith. Brandon LaFell hasn't done that, and he's scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.
But I keep going back to last year's draft, the first for new general manager Dave Gettleman. He selected defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short with his first two picks. They were huge in elevating the defense to second in the NFL against the run.
Gettleman likes building from the inside out and the Panthers like to run. They need help at offensive tackle, whether it's a replacement for Jordan Gross on the left side or somebody who can start on the right side opposite Gross, should he re-sign as I expect he will.
They have a better chance of getting that player in the first round than the second. Both Kiper and McShay have a tackle -- Tennessee's Antonio Richardson (6-6, 327) and Virginia's Morgan Moses (6-6, 332) -- going just ahead of Carolina to New Orleans.
If one falls to 28th, it will be tempting.
The draft is deep at wide receiver, so there's a better chance of falling into a find there in the second round.
As for what Kiper and McShay say is best for Carolina:
Kiper's pick: Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks (5-10, 186). My take: It's hard to argue with Cooks' production, but his lack of size concerns me. Quarterback Cam Newton needs a big target opposite Smith (5-9, 185), not a Smith clone as great as Smith has been.
McShay's pick: Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (6-4, 233). My take: I really like this pick if Carolina goes receiver. He's big and FSU quarterback Jameis Winston's style is similar to Newton's.