The Carolina Panthers had an amazing season last year going 12-4 and allowed the second fewest points in the NFL, before being eliminated in the playoffs by the San Francisco 49ers. Quarterback Cam Newton took a huge step forward in his career as he showed great growth and maturity in his game. Carolina had the 11th best run attack in the NFL, led by DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert and of course Newton. The 3 of them combined for all 14 of Carolina's scores on the ground. Greg Olsen and Steve Smith were Newton's go to guys through the air, with Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn the only other wide receivers on the team to have more than 7 catches. Things will get interesting in 2014, as Smith, LaFell and Ginn are no longer on the team. Instead the Panthers drafted Kelvin Benjamin and signed free agents Tiquan Underwood, Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Ed Dickson.
Cam NewtonNewton was a changed man in 2013. His attitude was positive and it showed on the field, as he led his team to the playoffs. The Panthers took some of Newton's option plays away, which helped limit his turnovers. Newton threw a career high 24 touchdowns with 13 interceptions and just 1 fumble. There's no doubt that tight end Greg Olsen is his go to guy, and luckily he'll have him back this season. The real question is, how well can he play without Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell? The Panthers drafted a stud in Kelvin Benjamin, but how often do rookie wide receivers make an immediate impact in the NFL? Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant are both valuable veteran guys, if they aren't the #1 receiver. And Tiquan Underwood is 27 with only 63 receptions for his career. Newton might have to rely on his legs a little more this season than he did last year, which could either be great for fantasy owners or a disaster (fumbles, injuries, etc.). We ranked him 6th in our QB rankings.
DeAngelo WilliamsRemember back in 2008 when Williams had 1,515 yards and 18 touchdowns? Yea those days are long gone. However, Williams remains the Panthers starting running back, despite not having a 900 yard season the past 4 years. Williams still has that break away speed but he isn't getting enough touches to be a reliable fantasy option. Over his final 11 games last year (including playoffs) Williams did not have more than 15 carries in any game. He also failed to reach 50 yards in 7 of those games. Jonathan Stewart could be ready for the start of the 2014 season which also is bad news for Williams. Unless you draft him very late as a 4th or 5th running back, it's probably best you avoid DeAngelo Williams in 2014. We ranked him 38th in our RB rankings.
Mike TolbertVULTURE! No other way to describe Mike Tolbert. This man has 458 carries over the past 4 seasons (7.6 carries/game) and has scored 31 touchdowns. Tolbert has finished as a top 50 fantasy football running back over the past 4 seasons and could do so again this year. However he's a huge risk to play, as he's all or nothing. If he doesn't find paydirt, he will likely only give you 20-30 yards. We did not rank him in our RB rankings.
Kelvin BenjaminYes, he is just a rookie, but at 6'5, 240 lbs, he already has an NFL body. Benjamin will be relied heavily on this year by Cam Newton as a play maker in this Panthers air attack. With no other star receivers on the team, Benjamin will see a ton of passes coming his way each week as Newton will look to build immediate chemistry with him. Still, I think the Panthers will be a ground and pound team so don't expect huge numbers from the first year player. We did not rank him in our WR rankings.
Jerricho CotcheryDo not draft Cotchery based on his performance last season. Cotchery is coming from a pass heavy Pittsburgh Steelers team to a run first team in Carolina. He only had 46 catches last season but he found the end zone 10 times. In his previous 9 seasons, Cotchery only caught 20 touchdowns. We did not rank him in our WR rankings.
Greg OlsenGreg Olsen has seen over 100 targets in each of the last 2 seasons playing with Cam Newton, and you can expect to see another 100+ target season in 2014. Olsen is Newton's go to guy through the air. His numbers have been almost identical the last 2 years, so you can expect a 75 reception season with 850+ yards and 7 touchdowns. We ranked him 5th in our TE rankings.
Fantasy Football Outlook
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