Carolina Panthers 2013 Fantasy Football Preview


May 30, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton throws a pass at the practice held at the Carolina Panthers practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy Stud — Cam Newton, QB

There isn’t a player on the Panthers’ roster with more fantasy potential than Cam Newton. This is a guy who took a small step back in his second NFL season, but I believe he is going to absolutely take off and become one of the star players of the NFL in 2013. The 2011 rookie of the year threw just 19 touchdowns and ran for 8 more, a total of 27 touchdowns that was eight fewer than he had as a rookie.

In his third season, I don’t think 25-28 passing touchdowns is out of the question for Newton, as well as 6-8 rushing touchdowns, perhaps even more. Newton is capable of absolutely dominating games, but I think he let his emotions get the best of him last year. That, and the Panthers seemed to be walking on egg shells for some reason.

Either way, Newton wasn’t the same player that he was as a rookie, but if he can continue to progress as a pocket passer (which he did in 2012), then I think he has a chance to be one of the best fantasy football pickups this season. He could be a top three overall performer by the end of the season, but he’s also a bit of a risk. After his 2012 season, it’s hard to know whether or not he will come out and have the season he is capable of.

Fantasy Risk — Panthers RB

Whether it’s Jonathan Stewart or DeAngelo Williams, either Panthers RB is a risk. Unless you play in a league that you are really hurting for players at the RB position, it’s best to stay away from both Stewart and Williams until later in your draft. Stewart rushed for just 336 yards in nine games last season, while DeAngelo Williams managed just 737 yards and five rushing touchdowns in all 16 games.

EIther one of those guys is a risk, especially the way Cam Newton runs the ball. The powerful, talented RB duo strategy did not work out for the Panthers for very long, and it especially hurt both players’ fantasy values.

If it’s me, I am staying away from both of these guys. Cam Newton seems like a more sure thing to run the ball in from the goal line, but you also have to worry about some of those carries going to fullback Mike Tolbert, who rushed for seven touchdowns last year and just 183 yards.

Fantasy Sleeper — Greg Olsen, TE

There was not a better, more underrated TE last season than Greg Olsen. The former first round pick of the Bears caught 69 passes for 843 yards and five touchdowns, and he’s second in line only to Steve Smith to get targets in this Panthers offense. Even better for potential owners of Olsen in fantasy, Cam Newton loves throwing this guy the ball.

I think if you’re looking to sneak a starting caliber TE on to your roster later in your draft, you can come away with an incredible value. Olsen should get close to 100 targets over the course of the season, and he is capable of getting 8-10 touchdowns depending on how successful the rest of the Panthers’ offense is.

When this team gets into the red zone, they are more than likely going to try to punch it in with the running game first, but don’t count out Olsen as a primary target when they get inside the 20. I really like his fantasy upside in 2013.

Fantasy Rookie to Watch — Kenjon Barner, RB

The Panthers didn’t get too much in the way of rookies in 2013 for the offensive side of the ball after using their first two selections on the defensive line, but they came away with Kenjon Barner in the sixth round. I was blown away by that selection.

Sure, Barner is smaller and RBs are not valued as highly now as they have been in the past, but I thought he was vastly under-drafted. I think Barner could be in line for some touches this year, but he’s more of a dynasty type of pickup. This is a guy with speed and toughness who was extremely productive in college. We’ll see if his game translates to the NFL, but I really liked him coming out and I think he can be a big play threat.