Monday, May 28, 2012

32 in 32: Carolina Panthers

This is the first team we've come to with a truly developed offensive game plan. The Panthers managed to average over 25 points per game last season, despite only winning six contests. The Panthers were definitely banged up on defense last season, but I am not sure that they did enough in the off-season to correct their porous defense. They have a great set of linebackers, but their defensive backs and defensive line least something to be desired. All of this leads to a team that is going to have to keep scoring if they want to win games. It also means that players in the NFC South (New Orleans, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay) should have favorable match-ups within their division this season. The Carolina offense all starts with one man...

Cam Newton took the NFL by storm last season, having one of the best rookie seasons as a quarterback in the history of the league. He should be a top 5 quarterback next season, thanks to his running ability and his decision making in the passing game. Newton completed exactly 60% of his passes last season, but he was sacked 35 times. It makes me nervous that he never broke the 300 yard mark after the 4th game of the season, especially since his team tended to do better when he threw for fewer yards. The biggest upside for Cam is that he should generate 4-6 points on the ground in every game this season in just rushing yards. I still feel like Newton is the fifth best quarterback in the NFL, but I would be more than happy to have him on my fantasy team if I can grab him at the end of the second or early third round.

While Cam Newton might have had a great season rushing, the guys who were supposed to be running the ball were mired in a weak rushing committee. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are both great backs, each of them averaging 5.4 yards per carry but neither of them receiving more than 155 carries last season. If these guys can get up into the 200 carry region they will be valuable, but it is really difficult to count on either one of them to have a significant impact with Newton running the ball 7-10 times per game. I would feel comfortable drafting either one of them as a flex player, but we'll have to see how they are utilized once the season comes. I would feel much better if I could be certain that either of these backs were going to get 200 carries this season. Jonathan Stewart is probably the better bet to be drafted next season, since he recorded 43 catches last season while Williams only caught 16 passes.

Speaking of pass catches, Steve Smith had an amazing season last year. If there were any other serious receivers on this team I would worry about Smith having a let down season this year, but I cannot imagine any of these receivers being a better target. Brandon LaFell might see an increased roll in the offense this season, but I can't see him being a huge part of this team. He could be an option if you want to give him a shot at the very end of the draft, but Greg Olsen is probably going to be the second leading receiver on this team. Unfortunately, Olsen has never really lived up to the potential he always seems to have in the the time between seasons. I would consider him a second tier tight end, at best. He was not highly utilized in the Carolina offense last season, and really fell off the map at the end of the campaign. He is another player who we will have to wait on to determine whether he is worth a late round draft pick. 

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