2015 Fantasy Recap
The Carolina Panthers were the definition of efficiency last season. Cam Newton was 16th in pass attempts but 2nd in TD’s. Ted Ginn only had 44 receptions but turned them into 10 TD’s. Even running the ball Cam was efficient, 132 carries turned into 10 TD’s. Outside of Cam though the only player, you could really count on week in and week out was Greg Olsen who had his best season as a pro. Despite the Panthers overall successful last season, which included being the top scoring team in the NFL, they did not have a lot of fantasy studs. Cam and Olsen were every week starters, Jonathan Stewart was barely an RB2, and Ginn because of his TD’s slipped in as a flex play. Unless of course, you were in a TD-dependent league then the Panther players were gold.
Key Additions and Losses
QuarterBack Fantasy Outlook
Cam Newton will not repeat his monster season from 2015. Last season was absolutely magical for him and the Panthers, but I just see no way he repeats it. Despite having such a great year he completed less than 60% of his passes and threw for 3800 yards. Those are not impressive numbers. Excluding last season Cam has averaged 20.5 TD’s and last year he put up 35. However, if you look closely at his stats he had 17 of them in 4 games. The Redskins, Giants, and the Saints twice. Half of his passing TD’s against 3 of the worst pass defenses from 2015. In the other 12 games he had 18 TD’s which is okay of a QB but again look at his matchups. Outside of the Packers and Seahawks none of their opponents instill fear. This season the Panthers have the Broncos, Vikings, Cardinals, Rams, Chiefs, Raiders, and Seahawks on their schedule. All of the defenses are much better than what Cam faced last year. In fairness, though even if you took 60 – 65 points away from Cam he is still a top 5 QB, so not repeating last year does not mean he is worthless. His QB numbers will come back down dropping him to 10 – 15, but his rushing numbers will push him back in the top 10. I see him finishing close to the top 5 but not breaking into it.
Grade: A –
Running Back Fantasy Outlook
Up until last year, Jonathan Stewart shared the backfield with DeAngelo Williams. In his first year without Williams, Stewart posted solid number, but nothing better than a low-end RB2. Entering the dreaded 29-year-old season I do not see him improving on last year. In fact, he might even go down a little bit this season. Cameron Artis-Payne is entering his second season and ran decent in spots last year. I don’t think this is going to be a timeshare like the old days with Williams, but I could see Cameron stealing 50 – 75 carries away from Stewart. If that happens Stewart moves from RB2 to RB3/4. Either way, I am not targeting Stewart at all, but would take him if I could get him as my 3rd back in like the 7th or 8th round, good for depth, but not counting on him. I would only consider Cameron in dynasty formats. Something to consider, an injury to either guy gives the other a bump to solid RB2.
Grade: C –
Wide Receiver Fantasy Outlook
In 2014 Kelvin Benjamin had a very solid rookie year, which led to a lot of optimism for 2015. During the preseason though Benjamin tore his ACL and was lost for the season. Now he is back and is expected to be a full-go when training camp starts later this month. He should step right back into his number 1 slot. He is easily the best receiver on the roster currently. Devin Funchess should get the start opposite Benjamin. Currently, Benjamin is getting drafted around the 4th round and Funchess the 12th round. I am actually staying away from both at this price as I think it is too high for them. Over the last 3 seasons, Panther receivers have caught 156, 155, and 154 passes for a total of 465. To help put this into perspective Antonio Brown has 375 receptions over the same time period. Why do I bring this up? Because I am not sure there are enough passes to go around for multiple receivers. One of two things will happen, one possibility is Benjamin gets his 80 and Funchess, Ted Ginn, and Corey Brown share the remaining 80. The other possibility is bad news for Benjamin owners, and that’s Benjamin and Funchess share 120 receptions and the Ginn and Brown get the remaining 40. I think it will be closer to the second option as opposed to the first. Benjamin can still be a low-end WR2 or top flex play, but he won’t be worth his 4th round price tag for me. Funchess would be a stash in case he gets hot or Benjamin gets hurt, but Ginn and Brown are not even getting any consideration here.
Grade: C +
Tight End Fantasy Outlook
Greg Olsen has been Cam’s favorite target over the last 3 seasons. Olsen is averaging 78 receptions in that time. He should continue as Cam’s favorite target and produce the solid number we have come accustomed to. Another year of 75/1000/6 can be penciled in. I would start targeting Olsen as early as the 4th round. The only flag I will mention here is since 2009 Olsen has only missed 2 games and just turned 31. That is a lot of miles on his body. Knowing this does not change my mind about him, but it could for others.
Defensive Fantasy Outlook
Despite losing Josh Norman, who I think was overrated anyway, the Panthers still have one of the league’s best defense. Their front seven causes enough pressure on quarterbacks to force bad throws which results in a high number of interceptions, and if the quarterback does not give into the bad throw they end up getting sacked. The Panthers defense is also very active in forcing fumbles to create additional turnovers. Any defense that gets a high number of interceptions, sacks and fumble recoveries will certainly be among league leaders in defensive points. The Panthers are just so strong in all areas of team defense that they are one of the few worth reaching for a round or two early.
Article originally posted on Going For 2 on July 12th, 2016.