The Carolina Panthers have plenty of new faces. Matt Rhule, Joe Brady and Teddy Bridgewater are in, and Cam Newton and Ron Rivera are out. What can we expect from the new-look Panthers?
When looking at fantasy players – or anything, really – we tend to look at them in isolation. We see something, focus on it and think of it in a vacuum. However, plenty of insight can be gained by looking at a player’s supporting cast and the infrastructure around them. Here at DynastyFootballDigest.com, we’re taking a team-by-team look at impactful fantasy players. In these season previews, you can expect to see:
• Top performer – The player I project to finish the highest at their position on the team.
• Biggest bust potential – Who is most likely to fall short of expectations this season?
• Sleeper to watch – This player, whether a rookie or an unheralded veteran, has a shot to make a splash in 2020.
• Stash for the future – One dart-throw to hold onto for future seasons. Relatively low cost, potentially high reward.
Without further ado, let’s get into one of the NFL’s most intriguing teams, the Carolina Panthers.
Top performer – Christian McCaffrey, running back
No surprises here. One of the best fantasy assets of all-time has as good of a chance as any to repeat as the RB1, even if he sees some regression. McCaffrey scored a ridiculous 413.2 fantasy points in half-ppr formats last season, trailing only Lamar Jackson. The next-closest running back, Aaron Jones, had 290.3. The difference between CMC and the rest of the field was staggering.
I have McCaffrey scoring a whopping 67 fewer points this season, but that’s still more than enough to have him wind up as the RB1. I believe he’ll post similar rushing numbers while falling from 19 total touchdowns to 14. I also have him dropping from 145 targets to 120, mainly because of the addition of weapons like Robby Anderson and the potential emergence of tight end Ian Thomas. I also projected a dip in efficiency, going from 4.8 to 4.6 yards per carry. Even with these drop-offs, the numbers still boil down to an elite, RB1 season. Don’t overthink it. CMC is still the best asset in fantasy football.
Biggest bust potential – DJ Moore, wide receiver
I’ll preface this section by saying I absolutely love DJ Moore as a dynasty prospect. I also like him a lot entering the 2020 season. However, I don’t expect him to make the jump into the elite tier yet.
Moore is being drafted as a top-six option at receiver in startups, which is completely reasonable. He’s young, he has an impressive athletic profile, high draft capital and a solid track record through two seasons, despite poor quarterback play. I think the top-six evaluation, as it relates to dynasty, is fair. But I don’t expect him to finish inside the top 10 this year.
I think Moore will lead the team in targets, but not by much. CMC is still their best weapon, and he’s a perfect dump-off option for newly acquired quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Moore excels in the short and intermediate areas of the field himself, however, and he’ll likely capitalize on more accurate quarterback play. But there are other weapons in the fold who’ll each command their own chunk of targets, and Moore has never been a big touchdown guy.
In summary: Moore is an excellent option for 2020 as a low-end WR1, and an even better long-term asset to have on your dynasty team. I just don’t expect him to leap into that upper echelon this season.
2019 season: 135 targets, 87 receptions, 1,175 yards, 4 touchdowns, 187 fantasy points.
2020 projections: 132 targets, 90 receptions, 1,212 yards, 6 touchdowns, 202 fantasy points.
Sleeper to watch – Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback
Teddy Two-Gloves, a potential QB1 this season? It’s not crazy. I’m not saying he’s going to be the top quarterback overall, but I think he has a good shot to finish at or just outside the top-12 at his position.
The Carolina Panthers’ defense was atrocious in 2019, as it ranked bottom-10 in yards per play, last in yards per rush, and bottom-five in percentage of opponents’ drives resulting in a score (per profootballreference.com).
It was so bad that they went and spent all of their draft picks on defensive players. Although those players were selected to improve the defense, that’s not a change that’s gonna happen overnight. I think this leads to the Carolina Panthers throwing the ball at least 600 times once again this season. That, combined with the short-range weapons Bridgewater has, will be enough for a QB12 season.
2020 projections: 398/600 (66.29%), 4,372 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, 9 interceptions.
Stash for the future – Reggie Bonnafon, running back
Reggie Bonnafon is the definition of a low-risk, high-reward asset. CMC has done a great job of staying healthy throughout his career, but if something were to happen, a ridiculous amount of touches would become available. Hundreds of touches. Not all of them would go to the next man up, but a lot of them would, and that man appears to be Bonnafon.
Bonnafon took advantage of the opportunities he was given during his rookie season, turning 16 carries into 116 yards and a touchdown, good for more than 7 yards per attempt. He also gained an average of 9.5 yards on his six catches.
— Nick Coffey (@TheCardConnect) October 6, 2019
His efficiency would surely drop if given more responsibility, but there’s a good chance he’s sitting on your waiver wire right now. Take a look at some of the dudes you have taking up space at the end of your bench, and ask yourself how high their ceiling would be if their superior were to get injured – or COVID. It likely isn’t as high as Bonnafon’s ceiling, given the absurd amount of touches that would become available.
You can find me on twitter @LukeyG_Dynasty. Keep an eye out for more of my writing here at dynastyfootballdigest.com.