Dynasty Capsule: Carolina Panthers

Brian Malone

Every year we give our premium content members a team-by-team, player-by-player look at the NFL season that was. The coverage will be in-depth, but because the Dynasty Capsule series begins immediately after the season, we won’t use it to discuss free agency or the draft. Come see us in early May once Mr. Irrelevant is off the board for another 32-article series giving you the same detailed discussion you’ll see below.

Buckle up dynasty fans, because you’re about to be reminded why our motto is, “There is no off-season.”

Offensive Coordinator

The Panthers have hired Norv Turner as their new offensive coordinator. That’s probably bad news for the offense as a whole:


Cam Newton

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After all the off-season chatter of protecting Newton and turning him into a pocket passer, he set career highs with 139 rush attempts and 754 rushing yards in 2017. That rushing production made him the QB4 in points per game among those who played at least eight games. Unfortunately, Newton also notched his career-worst season in pass efficiency, throwing for just 6.1 yards per attempt and 6.1 adjusted yards per attempt. That will scare dynasty owners, who have long worried that Newton may fall off more quickly than other QBs because of his reliance on running.

Newton’s dynasty ADP is 69, which makes him the sixth QB off the board. He’s a fine target at that price in 1QB leagues, as he’s been a consistent top-12 producer and has demonstrated QB1 overall upside. But I’m skittish about taking him as a top-six option in 2QB dynasty leagues, where longevity is more valuable. Though Newton turns just 29 in May, I worry that because he’s a part-time running back, he won’t be effective past his early 30s.

Derek Anderson

Anderson has been a fine understudy, but he’s an unrestricted free agent and he turns 35 in June. Expect the Panthers to find a younger QB2 in free agency or the draft.

Running Back

Christian McCaffrey

Though overshadowed by fellow rookies Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt, McCaffrey posted a more-than-respectable 14.8 points per game in PPR leagues, making him the RB13 among those who played at least eight games. True to his draft profile, he led all running backs with 113 targets. But Newton’s short-pass inaccuracy stifled his production: his catch rate was just 71 percent and he averaged only 5.8 yards per target. McCaffrey wasn’t much more efficient as a runner, averaging 3.7 yards per carry and scoring just twice on 117 chances.

In short, McCaffrey’s rookie season confirmed the optimists’ and pessimists’ beliefs. His receiving prowess gives him a high seasonal floor, but he likely won’t get enough rushing work to produce high-end fantasy numbers. And unless Newton improves his short passing, McCaffrey will leave points on the table.

McCaffrey’s dynasty ADP is 23.5, which makes him the 11th RB off the board. I don’t mind the positional rank, but I’d far rather have someone like Tyreek Hill or Stefon Diggs, who are both going in the same range.

Jonathan Stewart

Stewart’s dynasty stock plummeted when the Panthers drafted McCaffrey, and rightly so. He was unstartable in all but the deepest formats in 2017. He managed only 680 yards on 198 carries, good for a career-low 3.4 YPC. With McCaffrey dominating the backfield targets and Newton taking the goal-line opportunities, Stewart was a mere grinder.

Worse yet, Stewart turns 31 in March. Not surprisingly, dynasty owners are bailing: you can draft Stewart in the late-double-digit rounds. The only reason for optimism is Stewart’s contract. The Panthers could save $3.7 million in cap space if they cut him this off-season. But he’s spent his entire career in Carolina, and he’s not likely to fetch a big payday elsewhere, so he may restructure (or retire) rather than test free agency.

Cameron Artis-Payne

Once the favorite to succeed Stewart as the Panthers’ lead back, Artis-Payne now hangs out in the free agent pool of most dynasty leagues. If the team moves on from Stewart this off-season and doesn’t replace him, Artis-Payne could conceivably have some fantasy value in 2018. But it’d take a McCaffrey injury, and even then he’d be a mid-RB2 at best.

Fozzy Whittaker

Whittaker, who turns 29 in February, is probably a nice guy but has no fantasy football value.

Wide Receiver

Devin Funchess

Left for dead by many dynasty owners six months ago, Funchess made good in his third NFL season. He led the Panthers in receiving yards and touchdowns, and his strong play allowed the team to trade Kelvin Benjamin mid-season. Funchess will turn 24 in May, heading into his fourth NFL season. And he stands to benefit the most (or at least suffer the least) playing under Norv Turner, who favors big WRs like Funchess.

Funchess’s season catapulted his ADP from 181.3 in August to 53.2 in January. Based on ADP, he’s a high-end WR3, which is a slight bargain for a player coming off a low-end WR2 season in points per game at age 23. I’d take Funchess over fellow youngsters Corey Coleman, Will Fuller, and DeVante Parker, who all fetch a similar price.

Curtis Samuel

Samuel was a fantasy non-factor as a rookie, turning 26 targets and 4 rush attempts into 179 scrimmage yards and no touchdowns before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in week ten. Perhaps the timing of his injury hurts more than anything: the Panthers had traded Benjamin just two weeks prior, and Samuel’s opportunity grew quickly with Benjamin gone. He saw 12 targets in one-and-a-half games after the trade.

Dynasty owners are giving Samuel a mulligan. His January ADP is 128, just a touch lower than his 111-126 range from May to August 2017. That makes sense. Samuel doesn’t turn 22 until August, making him younger than many of this year’s rookies. So long as the Panthers don’t add too much competition, I’m looking forward to seeing what Samuel can do in a full season as a starting WR.

Damiere Byrd

If the Panthers have any dynasty sleeper WRs, Byrd’s the one. Relatedly, the Panthers don’t have any dynasty sleeper WRs. Byrd led the team’s WR2 platoon in snaps after Samuel’s season-ending injury, but he never garnered more than five targets or 37 yards in a game. He did score three touchdowns, including a 103-yard kickoff return against Tampa Bay in week 16. But he left week 16 with a season-ending injury of his own. He’s a role player who’s more valuable to the Panthers than to your dynasty team.

Tight End

Greg Olsen

2017 was a lost season for Olsen, who missed nine games due to injury and averaged less than 30 yards per game when he was on the field. (Though he grabbed 8 of his 12 targets for 107 yards and a touchdown in the Panthers’ round one playoff loss.)

Turning 33 in March, Olsen is a year-to-year rental in dynasty. But he’d been remarkably consistent heading into 2017, finishing each of the past three seasons with at least 1,000 yards and 12.8 PPR points per game. His current ADP of 109 puts him in the same price range that Delanie Walker has occupied for the past few seasons. At that price, he’s a fine target for any contending team that needs TE depth — and don’t we all?

Ed Dickson

While former Ravens teammates Dickson and Dennis Pitta probably aren’t going to match their 2010 draft counterparts in career production, I still enjoyed seeing Dickson’s 5-catch, 175-yard outburst in week five. But unless you get points for nostalgia, Dickson belongs on your dynasty waiver wire. He’ll be 31 before the season starts, and he’s an unrestricted free agent. He’d be a more improbable breakout candidate than Gary Barnidge.


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