As part of the premium content package, we’re again unveiling dynasty capsules for every team in the NFL leading up to free agency and the NFL Draft. This year, we’re also going to do a follow-up on all the teams after all the free agency and NFL Draft movement to assess the impact of any players teams have gained or lost. Since these capsules are always done as a simple snapshot in time, we figured that was the best way to tackle the off-season and provide ultimate value for our subscribers. All in all, we’ll have close to 500 player profiles found in these capsules over the off-season.
We continue our journey through the NFL with the Carolina Panthers.
After setting the league ablaze as a rookie and becoming the first rookie quarterback to throw for over 4,000 yards to go along with numerous other accolades and records, expectations were exceptionally high for Newton entering the 2012 season. Through six weeks, those expectations appeared too lofty to reach. His scoring followed a seesaw pattern in which he scored 16, 27, 15, 9, 19, 15, 21, 17, and 13 over the first ten weeks of the season. He stirred in some big games in that stretch, but the inconsistency left a lot to be desired.
Fortunately for fantasy owners, he bounced back in a big way to close out the year. From week 11 through week 16, he averaged a difference making 26.3 fantasy points per game. In those same six weeks, he had a quarterback rating of 104.5. For the year, he tallied over 3,800 passing yards to go with his 741 rushing yards and 27 total touchdowns. All told, he finished the season as the fourth best fantasy quarterback in standard scoring leagues.
Locked in as the Panthers’ starting quarterback for the next decade, it’s easy to make a case for him to be one of the top two or three quarterbacks off the board in start-ups. His progression following the week six bye is encouraging as he showed an increased ability to go through his progressions the remainder of the season. The early part of the season showed us his floor which is one of the highest floors in the league thanks in part to his electric running ability. One must consider the risk of injury when selecting a running quarterback, but he’s built like freight train created to steamroll defenses and hold up over the long haul.
After a surprise fall to the second round of the 2010 NFL draft, Jimmy Clausen proved to be a mammoth bust after starting just ten games in his career. Owning a career quarterback rating of 58.4 and having thrown three touchdowns and nine interceptions, it’s easy to see why the Panthers moved on after just one season. Clausen fell to third on the depth chart behind impending free agent Derek Anderson in 2012. However, Clausen’s 2013 contract is fully guaranteed and he will likely return as the Newton’s primary backup. He has minute value as Newton’s handcuff heading into 2013, but may end up out of the league as soon as 2014 when he becomes a free agent.
Anderson is a free agent and early rumors have him headed to Cleveland next season. One could argue he will have more value than Clausen, but neither one should be within ten feet of your roster.
It causes me tremendous emotional and physical pain to discuss Stewart, but I’ll do my best. The 2012 season was yet another season full of big dreams and bigger disappointment. Running mate DeAngelo Williams was supposed to be headed out of town and the feature back role was Stewart’s for the taking. As has become the norm for Stewart owners, heartbreak was around the corner as both he and Williams were both re-signed with massive contracts.
Alas, we were given another sliver of hope as heading into week seven head coach Ron Rivera stated he wanted to give Stewart the chance to become the team’s featured back. Again our hearts were trampled as he would proceed to average a measly 3.45 yards per carry over the next three weeks. We were put out of our misery as his season came to an abrupt and premature end in week 12 on account of a high ankle sprain.
Will 2013 be the season Stewart finally arrives in the promised land of fantasy super stardom? The talent has always been there and despite a down season, he still has a career yards per carry average of 4.7. He was also Pro Football Focus’ most elusive back in 2011. The coaching staff in Carolina noted that Stewart played at less than full health all season and, in January, highly regarded foot and ankle specialist, Robert Anderson, performed arthroscopic surgery on Stewart’s ankle. Despite a reputation for being injury prone, he had only missed two games in four years prior to missing seven this season. If the surgery is successful, he should be as good as new heading into 2013. His fantasy value will be determined not by his own talent, but by new offensive coordinator Mike Shula’s scheme and the fate of DeAngelo Williams.
After being bypassed early in the season, the 29-year old Williams closed out the season in impressive fashion. He averaged over five yards per carry and racked up 140 receiving over the final six weeks of the year. A well rounded back on the tail end of his career, popular opinion is he’s headed out of Carolina this off-season. Due to an ill advised five year, $43 million dollar contract signed in 2011, it may be difficult to find a trade partner, so he could be released.
It’s possible a competitive team with a need at running back will make an offer. The Packers come to mind as a possible landing spot despite their tendency not to spend big on running backs. Despite his age, Williams still has the skills to help a team in need. With a career 4.9 yards per carry average and only 1,169 (about 50 less than Ray Rice) attempts on his legs, he could prove to be a difference maker for a team in need.
If he does leave town as expected, Williams may find himself in a three down lead back role in 2013. While he may be aging, he proved with a 210 yard, two touchdown finale that he still has what it takes to be a top ten back. He’s a reasonable target for a dynasty team looking to win in the next year or two.
Tolbert is a 245 pound wrecking ball. There is nothing exciting about his game, but you can’t deny his ability to convert in short yardage and goal line situations. On 11 attempts inside the opponent’s ten yard line, he scored nine touchdowns. Unfortunately, he plays on a team with a crowded backfield and Cam Newton to share the rock with. Barring a string of injuries, it’s hard to imagine him being anything more than a handcuff.
He’s an undrafted free agent signed by the Browns in August of 2011 and a former track star hailing from Liberty College. Coaches and reporters noted him to be the fastest offensive player on the Browns’ roster at the time. Smith is too small to be a feature back at only 194 pounds, but the coaches in Carolina rewarded his hard work by promoting him from the practice squad following Stewart’s ankle injury. Despite his impressive speed and notable work ethic, he’s unlikely to ever see significant playing time in the NFL.
Tauren Poole put together an impressive sophomore campaign at Tennessee, before struggling (along with the rest of the Volunteers) as a Senior. However, one of my favorite NFL scouts, Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler), complimented his performance at last year’s Shrine Game. He noted his low pad level, decisiveness and quickness. Poole was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Panthers in May of 2012, but was placed on injured reserve following a rib injury. Poole is a name to watch over the coming years as he has a solid skill set, but he’s not worth a roster spot at the present time.
The fiery and undersized receiver shows few signs of slowing down. With seven career 1,000 yard seasons and over 11,000 career receiving yards with the likes Vinny Testaverde, Matt Moore, David Carr, Jimmy Clausen, Jake Delhomme and Rodney Peete throwing him the ball, he’s put a remarkable career together. His in-your-face style turns a lot of fans off, but it’s a big part of what has made him great.
Unfortunately, his long speed and elusiveness are what have made him so dangerous over the last decade. At 33 years old, he will eventually lose that dynamic ability. However, signed for under $5 million per year over the next two seasons, he should remain the receiver to own in Carolina for now. He hasn’t hit the wall yet as shown by averaging over 16 yards per catch in 2012. He could be a valuable cog in the wheel of a competing team, otherwise he should be moved before he falls off the cliff.
LaFell possesses all the tools to be a very good NFL and fantasy receiver. Standing at 6’2” and weighing 210 lbs, size is not an issue. He has good hands, but seemed to have trouble gaining separation this season. He has gradually increased his starts over his first three seasons, but is still only the third option in the passing game behind Smith and tight end Greg Olsen. Despite behind featured as the clear number two receiver, he only reeled in 677 yards in 2012. Next year is truly crunch time for the young receiver and will likely determine his future in Carolina.
There are more questions than answers for LaFell heading into next season. First, will he take the next step to become a dynamic NFL receiver? Second, will recent coaching changes make any difference in the way he’s used? Third, can an offense as run heavy as the Panthers’ make the third option in the passing game relevant? It’s still early in his career, but with his limited progression it’s hard to get excited about him.
Selected in the third round out of Appalachian State in 2010, Edwards is yet to make an impact in the fake football realm. Lesser known small school or football championship subdivision school receivers with big time collegiate production are often hyped as sleepers. Occasionally it works out in cases like Greg Jennings (WesternMichiganUniversity), but Edwards has yet to flash in the NFL.
After an encouraging rookie season in 2010 catching 37 passes for 508 yards, Gettis was lined up to the be the receiving option across from Steve Smith for the long haul. Those plans were derailed by a series of injuries including an ACL tear, concussions and hamstring injuries. After being activated off the PUP list this season, he didn’t record a single catch and was a healthy scratch most weeks.
His early career performance was good enough that he warrants watching during training this summer. New coaches may mean new opportunity. LaFell clearly has not done enough to feel safe. After the 2013 season, we might be discussing Gettis as a more valuable receiver than LaFell.
The oft-injured fourth year receiver acquired from the Raiders by trade failed to make an impact this season. He’s a player I kept on my roster for a few years waiting for him to get and stay healthy while in Oakland. Now with four years in the league and little aside from injuries and off the field issues to show for it, it’s safe to cut bait.
Primarily a return man in his first two years in the league, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he holds any fantasy value. He has two catches for 42 yards in his career. A player unable to crack the active lineup of a team as devoid of play making receivers (other than Steve Smith) holds little dynasty value.
Adams is a speedy fourth round rookie out of Arkansas. On the bright side, he caught every pass thrown to him. On the down side, that was just one pass. Speed isn’t enough to make it in the NFL and he needs a lot more work to become a relevant receiver.
Bryant was signed to a future contract in January and will compete for a roster spot heading into the 2013 season.
Olsen entered 2012 with high expectations. With an exciting young quarterback and the departure of Jeremy Shockey, the stars were aligned for a breakout season. He didn’t disappoint. While he will likely never be a difference maker for your fantasy team, he finished squarely in TE1 territory as the sixth best tight end as he averaged 8.8 fantasy points per game from week ten through week 16. You could do much worse than Olsen as your primary tight end in dynasty leagues.
Despite being listed as a tight end, Brockel is more of fullback. He was signed by San Diego as an undrafted free agent in 2010. He has three catches and three rushes in his career and this should be the first and last time you hear his name.
Strange coincidence with the last name, but he is of no relation to fellow tight end Dante Rosario. Nelson has never appeared in a game, but he might have a chance to soon. He was signed to a future contract and will participate in training camp to earn a roster spot in 2013. With little depth behind Olsen, he could have a chance to be the team’s number two tight end next year.