2018 IDP Projections: Carolina Panthers

Tom Kislingbury

As per last year, I’ll be sharing projections for every team in the NFL. I use past production in specific roles for each team’s scheme to work out realistic production profiles. You can see how accurate I was in 2017 in my IDP Projection Marking series.

The Panthers have been defensively a solid team for a while but they face a crossroads this year after Steve Wilks left to take over as head coach in Arizona and took Al Holcomb with him. They’re a settled team with a consistent philosophy so hopefully they can survive this without too much interruption but we’ve seen good teams suffer from so much coaching staff leaving together before.

Defensive tackle

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Up front, the team lost Star Lotulelei but signed Dontari Poe as a direct replacement as the 1-tech who eats space and blockers. Lotulelei struggled to create huge personal statistics in that role and I expect Poe to have the same issues.

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However Kawann Short is an elite talent. He’s one of the best interior rushers in the game at a time when there are really only five or six elite talents in that top tier. He’s one of the few DTs who have value in almost all scoring settings.

Defensive end

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Mario Addison remains one of the more underrated edge rushers in the game. He’s averaged ten sacks a season over the last two seasons. Over the last four seasons he has 33. That is consistent production. Maybe it’s due to the lack of a real statement, huge season but for whatever reason, he’s being drafted late and not valued anywhere near as highly as other top edge players.

Behind Addison, there’s a bit of a mess. I’ve got Daeshon Hall as the best option but it could easily also be Wes Horton or Julius Peppers. It’s worth noting that Peppers played only 500 snaps last season. He hasn’t played 600 snaps since 2015. He was off-the-charts efficient in 2017 but it’s not realistic to expect that again. Keep an eye on this situation through camp to see if any one player looks like seizing a high workload.


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Luke Kuechly is still amongst the very best defensive players in the league. He’s fantastic not just as a coverage player but also against the run given his ability to move through traffic and get off blocks. He has had some concussion issues but he was top in these projections a year ago and lived up to that confidence with a return to elite production. He remains in the top tier of IDP linebackers.

Behind Kuechly, Thomas Davis has announced this will be his final season. Obviously we hope he gets to go out the way he wants and avoids injury. He is already having to serve a multi-game suspension though and now is the time if Shaq Thompson is ever going to seize the opportunity to start. I think he can do it. And the team must do too, given their lack of investment into the position over the off-season. 14th is probably a little bit optimistic but this scheme is extremely LB-friendly. Thompson is a good value proposition right now.


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The Panthers scheme is beneficial to cornerbacks. In James Bradberry’s two seasons he has amassed 113 solos. The benchmark I look for is about 60 a season so he’s in that top-tier. With corners, there’s always the worry that another weak spot appears and sucks up targets but Bradberry should still be effective.

Rookie Donte Jackson is also an excellent IDP option. He should be making it onto the field as a second-round pick in a fairly group of players and as we know rookies get targeted due to the tough learning curve in the NFL.


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You thought corner was bad? This is honestly one of the worst position groups in the NFL. It’s shocking how little talent there is. Mike Adams entered the league in 2004. He’s crypt keeper-old. Da’Norris Searcy is no spring chicken either at nearly 30. The team did draft Goulden and are planning to use him as a safety but this does not look pretty.

Adding to the general despair is the fact that the Panthers run a primarily two-deep safety scheme. In 2017, Mike Adams and Kurt Coleman played 47% and 56% at deep safety respectively. That is not conducive to IDP production. As a result, both players are quite low down here – with the solo numbers particularly low. Playing behind one of the best linebacker units in the NFL is going to limit safety tackle numbers.


Kawann Short. Kuechly obviously belongs here too but given the presence of two fantastic talents I’m taking the one who plays a more scarce position. In many leagues, Kuechly is the more valuable player but in good leagues that reflect value well, Short is gold-dust. DT-premium combined with starting at least two at the position is the future and in those leagues, Short is a star.


Mike Adams. For some reason, people remember Kurt Coleman’s fantastic 2015 season (the year the Panthers went to the Super Bowl) and think that’s who he is as a player. I think that will also translate to the position in general. This is a big mistake.

He is a starter – but there are 64 starting safeties in the NFL, and only 24 in most IDP leagues. Mike Adams isn’t going to be in that top 24 very often.

Dark horse

DaeShon Hall. Hall was drafted in the third round a year ago and played a decent amount in his first game before injuring his knee. He’s facing a struggle for playing time but he has the talent to force himself into a good situation. He’s not going to rack up 15 sacks but he could easily produce six or seven across the year and massively increase his IDP value.


For a team that’s been good for a while, there’s a strange lack of excitement surrounding the Panthers. The last two seasons have showed their flaws more than their strengths even as the team won 11 games in 2017.

Having said that, they remain extremely watchable as a defense with Luke Kuechly, Kawann Short and Mario Addison my favourites on a down-to-down basis. That core of talent (with Shaq Thompson and Thomas Davis and Julius Peppers too) is more than many teams have on the defensive side of the ball.


tom kislingbury