Panthers 2018 carolina panthers Fantasy Preview

The Panthers experienced a Super Bowl hangover in 2016, but 2017 was a bounce-back year across the board. Cam Newton still hasn't been the same statistically since the Panthers' 15-1 season in 2015, but his dual-threat ability still makes him a top five fantasy quarterback. Newton threw for 3,302 yards, 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Not great numbers, but combine those stats with 754 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns and there's a high-end fantasy quarterback. Newton was Carolina's leading rusher, but rookie back Christian McCaffrey still had value as an RB2 or flex option. McCaffrey rushed for just 435 yards and two touchdowns, but he caught 80 passes for 651 yards and five touchdowns to finish as the RB15. Most of the carries went to Jonathan Stewart, but the 30-year-old back had the third-fewest rushing yards (680) of his 10-year career. Top wideout Kelvin Benjamin was traded at the deadline after a mediocre start to the season (32 receptions, 475 yards in eight games), and third-year pro Devin Funchess jumped in as Newton's No. 1 option. Funchess was the WR16 over the final eight weeks of the season. No other Carolina wide receiver had more than 17 catches for the season. The Panthers tight end spot had been occupied by Greg Olsen for the last six seasons (over 1,000 yards in the last three), but injuries changed the pecking order in 2017. Olsen suffered a fractured right foot in Week 2 and was hampered for the rest of the season, finishing with 17 catches for 191 yards in seven starts. Ed Dickson handled the starting duties in Olsen's absence, wrapping up the season as the TE28 (30 receptions, 437 yards and a touchdown). On the other side of the ball, Carolina's improved defense (DST9 in 2017) was a huge reason it got back into contention. The unit was a solid fantasy option throughout the season.

1

Cam
Newton

QB - Panthers

FACT: Newton was second in the NFL with 16 interceptions in 2017. Twelve of his 16 picks came on third down and six of those came on third-and-10 or further.
Offseason Moves

The biggest move of the offseason in Carolina was a change at offensive coordinator. After resigning from the same job in Minnesota in November 2016, Norv Turner is back in the NFL. Turner's offense will add more "quick passes" to the Panthers offense, which will benefit Newton and McCaffrey. McCaffrey's backfield partner Jonathan Stewart was released and promptly replaced by former Bronco C.J. Anderson, who is expected to be the starter and team-leader in carries. This won't limit McCaffrey, however, as his true value comes as a pass catcher out of the backfield and in the slot. The Panthers addressed their desperate need for a No. 2 wideout in the form of first-round pick D.J. Moore and offseason signing Torrey Smith. Moore and Smith both have fantasy potential, but their progress in training camp will inform owners if they are worth drafting. At this point, Carolina receivers outside of Funchess are untrustworthy. At tight end, Greg Olsen flirted with retirement and joining the Monday Night Football booth, but ultimately agreed to a two-year extension in April. Dickson left for Seattle in free agency, leaving the Panthers without much insurance in case of another injury-riddled season for Olsen. Fourth-round pick Ian Thomas heads into camp as the second-string tight end.

Sleepers & Busts

Christian McCaffrey has become the fantasy darling of the talented Carolina backfield. It's well-deserved, as McCaffrey finished his rookie year with 1,086 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns, and supplanted Jonathan Stewart as the Panthers' top fantasy running back. But the Panthers replaced Stewart with C.J. Anderson, a back four years younger than Stewart and fresh off a career season (1,007 rushing yards, 4.1 yards per attempt). With McCaffrey by his side, Anderson likely won't eclipse the 245 carries he got in Denver last season. McCaffrey will be more of a weapon in the passing game, though, and Anderson could still see upwards of 200 touches. Anderson had five games of at least 20 carries in 2017 and he rushed for over 80 yards in four of those games, including a 158-yard breakout performance in Week 14. Anderson is correctly slotted as the second fantasy running back in Carolina, but don't overlook his potential for another 1,000-yard season.

Last season was a year of change for Greg Olsen. After missing the first two games of his rookie season, Olsen didn't miss a snap for 10 years. From the time he arrived in Carolina in 2011, Olsen started 93-of-96 games and finished as a top eight fantasy tight end in five of six years. In 2017, however, Olsen was unable to shake the injury bug. He played seven games and caught just 17 passes, the fewest of his career. Olsen, 33, went off in the Panthers' playoff loss to New Orleans (eight receptions, 107 yards and a touchdown), but his health will be a question mark heading into this season. There aren't a ton of tight ends that can be trusted in today's NFL. Nearly all of them have some sort of injury or production concern. Olsen's age combined with nagging injuries over the past few seasons (foot fracture, elbow sprain, knee strain) make us question his reliability heading into his age 33 season.

Fantasy Depth Chart
POSFIRSTSECONDTHIRDOTHER
QB Cam Newton Garrett Gilbert
RB Christian McCaffrey C.J. Anderson Cameron Artis-Payne
WR Devin Funchess Torrey Smith D.J. Moore Curtis Samuel
TE Greg Olsen Ian Thomas
K Graham Gano