With the glorious day approaching (less than one week away) of the first NFL season, the most popular sport in this country has grown a fervent following due in part to the fantasy football aspect that has developed in the NFL within the past decade. As general manager, you can virtually build the NFL team you have always wanted with your closest friends, co-workers or strangers across the country. Attempting to build a champion out of the players you personally select, you are finally in the role you have always wanted to have as a passionate NFL fan. Carefully crafting your roster through shrewd trading and draft picks, you can become the
Jerry Jones Robert Kraft among your league. Looking at the roster of the Carolina Panthers. The NFC South Champions field one of the most intriguing rosters from a fantasy league standpoint. We project the fantasy impact the skill positions of Carolina will field this season and which Panthers to pick up or stay away from as you begin your fantasy draft.
Since fantasy football is based more on statistical output, Cam Newton is in the top tier of fantasy quarterbacks. In fantasy (and only in fantasy) Cam Newton is better than Tom Brady and Philip Rivers because of his ability to score fantasy points as a passer and runner. Due to Cam’s duo nature, expect Newton to continue not only throw touchdowns, but also to pick up rushing scores. Finishing fourth among fantasy quarterbacks a year ago, I expect Cam to be a game changer in fantasy and should be one of the first quarterbacks selected in fantasy drafts across the country.
Similar to their actual play on the field as we inch closer to the 2014 season, there are many questions regarding the two top backs of the Panthers in Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. While Williams should be the feature back and is set to get the most carries of any Carolina Panthers back, DeAngelo is now 31 years old– an age when most running backs productivity drops. He will be challenged with not just Stewart, but Mike Tolbert and Newton for touches. Similarly, tJonathan Stewart also faces far too many questions for real fantasy value as he missed 17 games in the past two seasons. A crowded backfield with doubts about the identity of their two main backs means you should stay away from Panthers runners.
The biggest headline for the Panthers’ off-season was the departure of long time veteran Steve Smith. It will certainly be the top story line of the team heading into this season as Carolina nation is ready to see if Cam can connect to his new targets. Rookie Kelvin Benjamin was impressive in the preseason and at 6-foot-5 will be a target for Newton for fade routes in the endzone, which will be major fantasy points for owners. He may stumble early on, but Kelvin Benjamin is easily set to be a fantasy sleeper who can give an owner major points this season.
I also expect big seasons for wide receiver Jericho Cotchery and tight end Greg Olsen. Quietly handling business a year ago, Olsen has turned into one of the most consistent tight ends in the league with back to back seasons of over 800 yards, close to 70 grabs and at least five touchdowns in each of the past six seasons. Though he may face heavy coverage early on as Cam will continue to adjust to his new targets, Greg Olsen is a nice pickup for fantasy owners who fail on the Jimmy Graham, “Gronk” and Vernon Davis sweepstakes. Like Olsen, Cotchery is a consistent veteran who will be Cam’s safety blanket early on in the year. Cotchery had a career high ten touchdowns a year ago; I don’t expect Cotchery to put up double digit scores, but he will be targeted by Cam in September and October more than any other wide receiver. It should give the former Jet and Steeler enough opportunities to make plays and pick up yards.
Outside of the Legion of Boom swarming wideouts for interceptions, the Carolina Panthers field the best defense in fantasy football. Though defensive backs Mike Mitchell and Captain Munnerlyn are no longer wearing teal and black, with the front seven the Panthers boast, an elite secondary isn’t required. Leading the league in sacks a year ago, with rising rushers such as AJ Klein and Kony Ealy, there is no reason to doubt that the number will be higher this season. As sacks rise, turnovers usually climb as well. With one of the best front sevens in the game, expect many sacks and turnovers for Carolina. As a fantasy owner grab the Panthers defense if still available.