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Carolina Panthers 2020 Fantasy Outlook

The Carolina Panthers are in midst of roster turnover at a time when their NFC South division is looking ultra-competitive. With the Bucs getting Tom Brady, the Falcons retaining a high-powered offense, and the Saints still being formidable, Carolina has their work cut out for them to stay in the division title mix in 2020.

Gone are longtime veterans such as Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, Thomas Davis, and Luke Kuechly. Also, former head coach Ron Rivera is now a member of the Redskins. With a new coach in former Baylor Bear Matt Rhule, along with a new collection of talent occupying their skill positions, the Panthers will look to regain momentum towards a playoff push.

They are now led by QB Teddy Bridgewater, who gets the starting job. It’s certainly going to feel different not seeing Cam on this team anymore. So, which Panthers are fantasy-relevant for 2020? Let’s dive right into it.

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2014 first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater will finally get a starting role in the NFL once again. It has been a rather turbulent NFL career for the 27-year-old, as he has dealt with a brutal injury, backup roles, and transferring teams. The QB1 spot in Charlotte is now his though.

The Florida native has only played one full season in the NFL since being drafted, and that was with the Vikings in 2015. Last year, as a backup for the Saints, the Louisville product was called into action after Drew Brees sustained a thumb injury in Week 2 against the Rams.

Bridgewater was phenomenal, leading the team to a 5-0 record during Brees’ absence and getting wins over the Seahawks, Cowboys, Buccaneers, Bears, and Jaguars. In the 2019 season, (nine games played, five games started), the QB had 1,384 pass yards, nine pass touchdowns, two picks, 7.1 pass yards per attempt, 153.8 pass yards per game, a 99.1 quarterback rating (career-high), and 31 rush yards. He had an 11.8 percent poor throws per pass attempt rate.

For fantasy purposes, you are certainly taking a risk on Bridgewater because of his very small career sample size. It’s anyone’s guess as to how he will perform for a full season with a new team. Because of this, it’s best to keep the QB as a backup on redraft teams. It is a huge gamble to make him a starter on your team and expect consistent production especially when RB Christian McCaffrey is the focal point of this offense.


Running Back

As previously mentioned, there is no question that Christian McCaffrey is the centerpiece of the offense (or maybe just is the entire offense). The 24-year-old continued to take it up a notch last season (his third in the NFL) and it ended up being simply spectacular.

The RB broke all types of fantasy records last season and was far and away the top-performing fantasy player with 471 points total (Lamar Jackson was second with 415). The Stanford product’s third NFL year was so terrific that he gained recognition for one of the best fantasy football seasons in fantasy history, coming within ten points of breaking the all-time record of 481 points set by RB LaDainian Tomlinson back in 2006.

It’s unbelievable how epic a season the 2017 first-round pick had last year, and this was while Carolina was dealing with QB injuries too. Overall, McCaffrey finished with 287 rush attempts, 1,387 rush yards, 4.8 yards per rush, 15 rush touchdowns, 116 receptions, 142 targets, 1,005 receiving yards, and four receiving touchdowns. He also had 81 percent of team rushes inside the 5. His improvement during his first three NFL seasons is very apparent.

Not many RBs can notch a 1,000-yards rushing and receiving season, but the Carolina RB did just that. Among NFL RBs, the Colorado native ranked fourth in rush attempts, sixth in rush attempts per game (17.9), third in rush yards, fourth in rush yards per game (86.7), and third in rush touchdowns.

Owners should not even hesitate to take McCaffrey as the first overall pick in fantasy drafts. He should be considered the top fantasy RB heading into drafts and easily the best overall fantasy player to consider. He provides elite production week in and week out, is dependable, and is the guy that can help lead your team to a championship (as long as he’s healthy). Lock him in your lineup and let the results come.


Wide Receiver

The Panthers return wide receivers D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel, along with adding former Jet Robby Anderson via free agency. These are the top three receivers for Teddy Bridgewater, and hence the most fantasy-relevant.

Moore is the clear WR1 after putting up a 1,000-yard season in 2019. The 2018 first-round pick broke out with 87 receptions, 135/633 targets (21.3%), 1,175 yards (led team), 13.5 yards per catch, and four touchdowns. He finished 21st among fantasy wideouts in 2019 after coming in 38th during his 2018 rookie season.

Among NFL WRs, the Maryland product finished ninth in receiving yards, seventh in yards per game (78.3), and 12th in targets. With an established role on this offense, Moore should get production once again in 2020 considering the Panthers had Kyle Allen playing QB last season and the receiver still managed to do well. The 23-year-old can be considered a WR1 or WR2 for owners in redraft depending on the size of the league. In bigger leagues (think 14 teams), he can be a WR1 and in smaller leagues, he’s a very high WR2.

Robby Anderson now joins the mix in Carolina. The Temple product came in second to Jamison Crowder on the Jets last year, finishing with 52 receptions, 96/521 targets (18.4%), 779 yards, 15 yards per catch, and five touchdowns in 16 games. If anything, the 6’3” receiver has generally been consistent throughout his four-year career and offers a great presence on the field for Teddy Bridgewater. Anderson finished 38th among fantasy wideouts last season, and he will be the WR2 on the Panthers.

Rounding out the trio is Curtis Samuel. Despite recent trade rumors surrounding the WR, he is nevertheless on the team as of now. The now fourth-year player compiled career-highs last season in games played, receptions, targets, yards, and touchdowns. Overall, the 23-year-old had 54 receptions, 105/633 targets (16.6%), 627 yards, 11.6 yards per catch, and six touchdowns in 16 games played. For a WR, he also offered modest rushing stats, including 19 rush attempts for 130 yards and one rush touchdown. The Ohio State product is known for his speed, notching a 4.31 in the 40-yard dash at the 2017 scouting combine, finishing second only to John Ross (4.22).

At this point, Robby Anderson will likely see a bigger role than Curtis Samuel. Therefore, he can be considered a good WR3 or flex in larger redraft leagues (14+ teams). Meanwhile, Samuel can be considered as just a flex piece in larger redraft leagues.


Tight End

Ian Thomas is the new TE1 after longtime starting TE Greg Olsen departed for the Seahawks this offseason. Thomas is a young guy at 24 years of age and he was also just drafted in 2018. With Olsen taking up much of the TE targets during Thomas’ first two years, the youngster did not accumulate much.

In his 2018 rookie season, the TE compiled 36 receptions, 49 targets, 333 yards, and two touchdowns. Thomas regressed last season, getting 16 receptions, 30 targets, 136 yards, and one touchdown. These stats are based on the TE playing all 16 games in 2018 and 2019 as well, albeit in a smaller role.

Expect bigger things for the Indiana product in 2020 as he is the lead TE on the team. Because owners still don’t know just how big Thomas’ role will get, it’s best to keep him as a backup tight end in redraft leagues for now.

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