This is a series on my 2014 outlook of players you would want to have on your Paper Pigskin team (fantasy football). What you'll find here are my views based on years of playing experience and countless hours of geeking out researching stats, trends, and watching video. I'll advise where to reach and whose hype not to believe.
CAROLINA PANTHERS - Passing 190 ypg Rushing 127 ypg
Carolina's success last season can be attributed to three things; their mistake free and solid tackling defense, the steady improvement of Greg Olsen, and the maturity of Cam Newton. Those three areas were also the only relevant fantasy football elements of this team. Panthers fans should be worried about the turnover in the offensive line as it will affect the time Newton has to make his reads and likely will have to run more often than he did last season. Newton has progressed in such a way that I feel the coaching staff trusts him enough to make passing plays more than the 49% than they called last season.
QB: Cam Newton has finished in top five of QB rankings every season. 2013 was his worst rushing season but he seems to be developing as a passer. Although he also finished with a career low in passing yards, it was his most efficient as he had a career high completion percentage and touchdowns. NFL talent evaluator Gil Brandt watched Newton in practice and said, "he threw the ball as well as I've ever seen him." Many in the NFL community have criticized the Panthers front office for not retaining their top three wide receivers from last season, but last time I checked, coordinators weren't game planning for Brandon Lafell or Ted Ginn; I love Steve Smith's toughness and swagger but he's now 35 years old and lost speed at 5'9". Those passing options have been replaced with a polished receivers and a raw physical specimen, plus his leading pass catcher from last season is still on the team. Cam Newton is playing for a large pay day, he should build on his success of last year and is more than worthy of his 5th round price of QB6.
RB: You are braver than me if you look in this team's direction for running back help. The three-back committee consists of DeAngelo Williams (good for 50-60 ypg), injury prone Jonathan Stewart (less productivity), and Mike Tolbert (3rd down blocking and goal line duty). Williams is the only one worth rostering, he can prosper when Stewart gets sidelined. His ADP is RB39, much to high, I'd rather have younger guys with upside. If DeAngelo goes down, be on the lookout for Kenjon Barner, who's ready for an opportunity.
WR: Every time I read something about the Panther's offense leading up to this season, I see the phrases "spectacular catch" or "catching everything" or "large catch radius" in regards to Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin has obviously been Cam Newton's top wide receiver target in camp. The two have developed an off field friendship, something Newton was never able to do with Steve Smith, which has translated to their chemistry on the field. He's the top rookie WR on my board; what other rookie will be the #1 receiving option and the top red zone target on his team from game 1? I'll wait... Touchdowns are worth 6 points in fantasy football too. Benjamin's current ADP is WR48 and rising fast. As high as I am on Benjamin, he's still developing as a route runner and won't always be open for Newton, this is where Jericho Cotchery and his route running precision on the other side steps in to help move the chains; he's at WR67 and presents value in ppr leagues. Jason Avant is also in tow and is more of a possession/slot receiver; only look for him in deeper leagues.
TE: If you feel all the stuff I said about Benjamin is hogwash, just know when things go awry, people revert back to what's more comfortable to them. For Cam Newton, that amenity comes in the form of Greg Olsen. Olsen has the highest floor outside of the elite TE group. He's a safe bet for a 70-800-6 season; due to his reliability, he's likely to exceed that baseline for career high numbers. He's priced at TE8 as of now.
Def: Don't expect the #2 defense from last season to fall off that much because they lost 3 starting pieces from their secondary, that was their weakest unit anyway. Draft them with confidence.
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