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The Panthers came within one win of taking home the Lombardi Trophy last year and, despite the loss of star corner Josh Norman, they look poised to take another shot at the NFL’s ultimate prize. The Panthers have fantasy weapons all over the field and they boast one of the leagues most dynamic talents in Cam Newton at quarterback, who can do stuff like this.
Cam is the best place to start when talking about the Panther offence since he is the straw that stirs the drink in North Carolina. Newton is coming off his best year as a pro, throwing for 3,837 yards and 35 touchdowns, as well as running for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns. Newton rightfully earned his first MVP award for last seasons performance, but can he keep up this pace? Chances are he will see a drop in production following such an incredible year last year, but that does not mean he is not one of the top-three QB’s in the NFL. The knock on Cam has always been he is not the greatest passer, he also has not always had the greatest receiving options, but should his passing numbers fall off, his running capabilities will be able to vault him up into the upper echelon of fantasy QB’s. Cam will probably be picked in the early rounds, sometimes as high as round two.
As I mentioned earlier Cam has never really had great receiving options in Carolina but that seems to changing starting with this season. The return of former top receiver Kelvin Benjamin should bolster the Panthers offence as he was looking like a very promising young player before a knee injury sidelined him for all of last season. Benjamin should be the Panthers top receiving option this year as he is by far the most skilled. It is just a question of whether he can make it all the way back from his injury. Look to grab him in the middle of the draft. After Benjamin, the Panthers employ second-year player Devin Funchess, a popular sleeper pick. Funchess has the size and hands to be a dangerous weapon in this league. He also had the opportunity to get more experience and playing time in his rookie year with Benjamin’s injury. Funchess is the the number two receiver and is worth a 10th round pick (roughly) but do not be surprised if by years end you see him creep up in the overall WR rankings. Then there is Ted Ginn Jr. who somehow managed to haul in 10 touchdowns last year. For some reason Ginn developed a good report with Newton and, despite his inability to catch the ball consistently, put up some solid numbers. Ginn is not pick worthy unless you are really thin at receiver. Plus there is no way he has that good a year again with Benjamin and Funchess soaking up most of the outside targets.
At Running back it’s Jonathan Stewart and only Jonathan Stewart. This does not mean Stewart is a star running back though. He is merely serviceable. He has not ran for more than 1000 yards since 2009 (also the only year he has had over 100o yards) so do not expect lots of yards. He is still a starting running back though and will be Carolina’s early down and goal line back. The Oregon alum is not likely to lose his job because of an up-and-coming player, so in that sense Stewart does provide a sense of stability but he is a middle of the pack option at best. If he scores a lot of touchdowns you will look like a genius for picking him in round seven. If he does not score then you will be left empty handed.
Greg Olsen patrols the tight end spot in Carolina. Greg Olsen is good at football and is Cam’s go to guy on passing downs. He is probably the leagues best tight end not named Gronk. Someone will reach and take Olsen earlier then necessary but once you have him, you do not need to worry about tight end for the rest of the year because you will be set. Olsen has also played in all 16 games in eight of his nine years in the league, averaging five touchdowns over that time.
Graham Gano is a steady kicker and with the Panther offence projecting to be one of the best in the league. Gano would be a rock solid fantasy kicking option. The Panther defence is also a top fantasy pick. Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis continue to lead one of the strongest units in football. The loss of Norman will hurt them in the secondary, but after drafting three corners they will look to replace him in the aggregate.
QB Cam Newton; WR Kelvin Benjamin; WR Devin Funchess; WR Ted Ginn Jr.; RB Jonathan Stewart; TE Greg Olsen; K Graham Gano; Panthers D/ST