- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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At least that's the projection of ESPN's Mel Kiper in his mock draft 1.0.
Can't say I disagree. Cooks, the Biletnikoff Award winner, would be a nice fit for a team desperately in need of help at wide receiver. He had 128 catches for 1,730 yards this season to set a Pac-12 single-season record.
LaFell and Ginn are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. I can see Ginn returning. He's valuable as a kick returner and he can stretch the field with his speed at receiver.
LaFell had only one catch in the regular season's final seven quarters after Smith, the team's all-time receiver, left with a sprained knee. His 49 catches weren't nearly enough to prove worthy of the team's No. 2 receiver.
The Panthers need another playmaker to pair with Smith for quarterback Cam Newton. Cooks, who is leaving after his junior year with 226 catches for 3,272 yards and 26 touchdowns, could be that guy.
He's a bit undersized at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, but so was Smith (5-9, 185) when the Panthers selected him in the third round of the 2001 draft.
Carolina's dilemma should a player of Cooks' quality fall to them would be if one of the top tackles slips to No. 28. Left tackle Jordan Gross is unsure whether he will return or retire, and even if he does come back, the Panthers need help on the offensive line.
Kiper may be right, though. Cooks, if available, might be too good to pass up.