Quarterbacks- 1. Teddy Bridgewater 2. P.J. Walker
Running backs- 1. Christian McCaffrey 2. Reggie Bonnafon
Wide receivers- 1. D.J. Moore 2. Curtis Samuel 3. Seth Roberts 4. Pharoh Cooper
Slot receivers- 1. Robby Anderson 2. Brandon Zylstra
Tight ends- 1. Ian Thomas 2. Chris Manhertz
It has become very clear on what new head coach Matt Rhule wants to fix in Carolina. He spent all 7 of his draft picks on defensive players. The Carolina Panthers' defense was not very good last year. The Panthers allowed almost 145 yards per game on the ground and almost 375 total yards per game. The rushing yards per game was good for 4th worst in the NFL and the total yards per game was good for 10th worst. The stat that really stands out is the Panthers' scoring defense. The Carolina Panthers allowed 29.4 points a game which was 2nd worst in the NFL. This was not only caused by having a bad defense, but also a stagnant offense. Cam Newton was banged up all season, forcing Kyle Allen to start at quarterback. The Panthers were at the middle of the pack in almost every offensive category last season. This is what new offensive coordinator Joe Brady is going to try and fix. Brady led one of the best college offenses ever last year at LSU. Expect this offense will have similar concepts to Joe Brady's high flying offense with some of Matt Rhule's conservative offense being an influence.
Quarterbacks - The quarterback play last season for the Carolina Panthers was atrocious. Cam Newton was injured and only played in 2 games, where he averaged 8.3 fantasy points per game. Kyle Allen stepped in and started for 12 games and wasn't much better. He finished as the QB28, and was on very few fantasy teams. Allen had a 23.2% deep ball completion percentage, which was 31st in the league. He also had 2.6 interceptable passes per game.
Allen had the benefit of throwing to star running back Christian McCafrey last year. Allen threw McCaffrey the ball 109 times. The Panthers obviously thought Kyle Allen sucked and signed two quarterbacks in free agency. The first was former Vikings and Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The second was XFL star P.J. Walker. Kyle Allen was released and signed with the Washington Redskins.
Teddy Bridgewater started in 5 games last year and played pretty well in them. He averaged 16.72 fantasy points per game. If he played the whole season, he would've finished as the QB11 just ahead of Matt Ryan. He had a 46.7% deep ball completion percentage and 0.7 interceptable passes per game. Bridgwater won't have Michael Thomas to throw to but still has a very underrated group of receivers in D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and Curtis Samuel. Bridgewater is borderline not being drafted in most leagues. He should be considered a sleeper you should keep an eye on.
Running backs - If you had Christian McCaffrey in fantasy last year, you likely at least made it to the playoffs. This guy was a PPR monster last year as he racked up 471.2 PPR fantasy points. McCaffrey was second in the entire NFL with 113 receptions. He was the type of guy you knew what you were going to get week in and week out. He only had under 20 points twice and had under 25 points 3 more times.
If you took away McCaffrey's receiving stats, he would've been the RB13. If you took away his rushing stats, he would be the WR12. McCaffrey carried the Panthers' offense last season. He benefitted a lot from having a far below average quarterback. It is much easier to dump the ball off to your running back than throw the ball 10+ yards down the field.
McCaffrey is a top 2 pick in most fantasy drafts this year. Most people would take him with the 1st pick. I have McCaffrey ranked at #2 because there is no way he gets 141 targets again. With the signing of Robby Anderson and the emergence of D.J. Moore, McCaffrey will be lucky to get 100 targets again. Even if he isn't getting as much volume in the pass game, McCaffrey should still be a top pick this year. Expect a regression though as #1 players in fantasy usually don't repeat.
Wide Receivers - Even though the quarterback play was pretty bad last year, the Panthers still had 2 fantasy relevant receivers. The first one, D.J. Moore finished as the WR16. He had 135 targets of which he caught 87. With those 87 receptions he had 1004 yards and 4 touchdowns. Moore was a very consistent receiver as he only had under 10 points in 3 games. Moore also has great hands. He only dropped 3 passes last year.
Curtis Samuel has always been a weird player for fantasy. Every year the analysts call him a sleeper. I targeted him in a bunch of leagues because I read that no Panthers player could tackle him in practice. Now I know that this means nothing because the Panthers' secondary was terrible. People forget that Curtis Samuel had 106 targets last year, but only caught 54 of those and finished as the WR36.
For the upcoming season, D.J. Moore is ranked as my WR10. I think having a competent quarterback will help him a lot. I don't think he will surrender too many targets to Robby Anderson. Anderson will likely take targets away from McCafrey and Samuel. In drafts I look at D.J. Moore as a player with a high ceiling and a medium floor. I am not looking to draft either Robby Anderson or Curtis Samuel because they will hurt each other's value.
Tight Ends - Matt Rhule has a history of not using his tight ends at all. That history took place in college which is far different from the NFL. Joe Brady did use his tight ends a little as Thaddeus Moss had a decent season at LSU. Greg Olsen had a good season last year and finished as the TE13. He had 123.7 fantasy points but was pretty inconsistent throughout the season.
Gone is Greg Olsen and it is next man up for the Carolina Panthers. Ian Thomas played in all 16 games but only got targeted in 9 of them. We have no idea how the Carolina Panthers offense is going to look and how many targets the tight end will get is a question mark. Ian Thomas is a player I am not really considering for fantasy and there are far better options out there.
Sleeper: Teddy Bridgewater, D.J. Moore
Star, but will regress: Christian McCaffrey
Bust: Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel
Not touching: Ian Thomas
I hope you enjoyed 2020 Fantasy Previews Part 5: Carolina Panthers. 2020 Fantasy Previews Part 6: Chicago Bears. Please be sure to comment what you think of the Carolina Panthers' offense heading in to the 2020 season.