Is There Any Fantasy Value on the Panthers other than Cam?

The ESPN Top 200 and The Other Panther’s Early Fantasy Outlook

Greg OlsenIn the ESPN Fantasy Projections Pre-rankings, after Cam Newton’s third round appearance, there isn’t a lot of Carolina on the list for a while. Clearly the all knowing, infallible, and never long winded Matthew Berry has very little faith in the Panther’s offense. I’ve never been shy about saying that I’m not a huge fan of the Talented Mr. Roto, but I do respect his faith in Cam Newton over the years. That being said, there are definitely some Carolina fantasy gems that slipped through the cracks into the later rounds. In a Twelve Man, standard scoring, normal setup, sixteen round snake redraft league, that isn’t auction or IDP, the first half of the draft is mostly QBs, RBs, and WRs, and the Cats have exactly one (Least in the NFL).

But if you are feeling nerdy like me and after most people’s mock draft has automatically switched to auto-pick, Greg Olsen comes nexton the list at #86, ranked TE9. This is statistically about where he ended up at the end of last year, as the whole TE list is essentially a copy and paste of last year’s scoring leaders, just substitute Gronk for Gonzo. Personally, I think that saying Olsen is barely draftable as a TE1 is a joke. Cam is going to have to throw more than run on that ankle (especially early on), Olsen is a great receiving tight end, and he is practically the only player on the team Newton has thrown a touchdown to. In football we talk about building a rapport with your receivers, and as of a few weeks ago, Greg was the only passing target Cam Newton had even met, and now he will spend most of the offseason on an exercise bike.  Of all the tight ends in the top ten, Olsen and Jordan Cameron are the only ones whose value has shifted significantly in the offseason, and I feel that the rankings do not reflect that. I have him ranked at TE6, making him round five value, available in the eighth.     
Up next at #93 is the Panther's DST. "What's that Matt? You forgot about our WRs and RBs." No, you heard me correctly; the third highest ranked Panther is our defense. Now all sarcasm aside, the Panthers defense is going to be incredible this year, easily DST2 (suck it 49ers), behind the obvious choice in Seattle. Who knows though, next year the Seahawks might be DST2 behind the obvious first choice Panthers--despite this whole Hardy debacle, and especially with what we've done to try and improve our secondary (I never liked Captain Mudderland, Rivera never liked him, and based on his name, neither did his mother.) That being said, I would never draft a defense this early (12 man snake means round seven,) Panther fan or not.  Either way, a Carolina “fan pick” won't end up a disappointment.  They will be a tier 1 defense all year long.
Sneaking into the top 100 at #98, and hanging around until the eighth round, is Deangelo Williams. At RB38, he is ranked a high end RB4, and considering he finished last year as RB21, a low-end but very startable RB2, this is quite the downgrade. The logic here is reasonable; you have a running quarterback, a four headed monster platoon, and the return of last year’s absentee Jonathan Stewart, which all muddles the situation. Williams may be the best back on the team, but Stewart will steal his carries, Tolbert will steal his touchdowns, and Newton will steal his thunder. Still, at #98, Williams is a steal. Johnathan Stewart will not play 16 games this year, and Deangelo is ranked as if he will, so it is a gamble. If he breaks his ankles week 1 and is out for the year, Deangelo is this year’s bargain RB, like a ’13 Reggie Bush or Knowshon Moreno; but if Stewart somehow makes it to week 14 before he inevitably goes down for the year, you are going to be stuck with a half decent RB3. He is a big gamble, maybe not a good gamble, but the upside potential is there. Either way he is the only RB on the Panthers worth looking at. Do not draft Tolbert unless you’re in a touchdown only league, and do not draft Stewart unless you are hacking a friends account and intentionally tanking your buddies team. The Panthers backfield is a fantasy nightmare, as usual, so you shouldn’t be surprised that even a Twenty year panthers fan is willing to tell you to stay away. There is a reason that at RB38 Deangelo Williams is ranked dead last #32 in starting running backs, and also behind six back up RBs.
Speaking of being dead last for starting players in skills positions, Jericho Crotchery and the Panthers share this dubious distinction in the WR category as well, being ranked an embarrassing #164, WR59. This is not only after 20+ second-string wideouts (almost all of them), but also several third stringers; as well as ten kickers. All of this is before ESPN has decided to put Kelvin Benjamin on the list, which they will. So in other words, don’t draft him.

Jericho Crochery may top the depth charts in Charlotte for now, but by September the Cardiac Cats top pass catcher will be Kelvin Benjamin.  This goes quadrouple for fantasy, where he will make an immediate impact. Benjamin was a great draft pick, (and not to toot my own horn, but my original pre-draft night choice for who we should take first), and he will make an immediate fantasy impact. Currently he isn’t even close to the Top 200, but come draft day, ESPN will probably have him in the top 100 as a lower WR3. This will be too low, because I predict he is going to come out playing like a decent WR2 opening day, and finish as a high end WR2, low end WR1. Bold prediction I know, but the pieces and potential are all there. So, if he stays low enough on the list, he might end up being a crazy great value. Last year I drafted Josh Gordon with my last pick. If Kelvin Benjamin is on the board on your last pick, take him. Take him anyways.

By Matt Haithcock