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2022 Fantasy Forecast: Carolina Panthers

Who will win the Carolina Panthers quarterback battle? Will CMC be back to his former superstar self? Find out as @noahrwright breaks down the Panthers 2022 fantasy outlook.

What a long offseason it has been for fantasy football superfans. Between the mayhem of free agency in March, the NFL Draft in late April, and the start of training camp two weeks ago, there’s been plenty of football talk to keep us busy. However, nothing can replace the actual games. There is nothing like a Monday night football game with your team down, and you only have one player to be your saving grace. One game could mean a boost into the playoffs or the final push towards winning the championship. I’m already too excited for what’s to come this fall! Without further ado, let’s get down to business.

Today, we will talk about a team that has not been overly successful as of late in the NFC South. Since their 2015 Super Bowl run, this team has only boasted one season with a winning record, including only five wins in the past three seasons. You guessed it. It’s time to break down the Carolina Panthers. 

QUARTERBACKS

Talk about a confusing position to evaluate. What was once an easy decision with MVP Cam Newton at the helm has now turned into a battle for who is the most mediocre. With Sam Darnold, a third-round draft pick Matt Corral, and recently acquired Baker Mayfield, the Panthers coaching staff has quite the decision to make before the season starts. Although honestly, this might be a week-to-week decision all season long. 

Sam Darnold

Darnold has proved that he should be the starting quarterback for an NFL franchise. Darnold got off to a quick start last season, posting 23.7 PPG through the first four games, which would have tied him for QB1 overall. Unfortunately, the wheels began to fly off the wagon by week five. The 24-year-old finished as QB29 in PPG while only starting in twelve games. He was replaced mid-season by a combination of P.J. Walker and former Carolina hero Cam Newton. It seemed clear that neither of those options was going to continue to work down the road, so the coaching staff gave Darnold the green light once more for the last three games of the season. Yet again, Sam did not show anything that instilled confidence moving forward that he was their guy. 

Matt Corral

Corral comes from one of the more interesting quarterback classes in recent memory. Only one quarterback was selected in the first round (Kenny Pickett), which notified me to steer clear of the rest in the first two rounds of rookie drafts. 

Even if the NFL did not seem to see him as first-round worthy, one attribute I love about Corral is his confidence. To make it in any professional sport, an athlete needs to believe in their abilities, and Corral lacks none of that. His almost cocky personality may rub certain people the wrong way, which could have led to his drop in draft stock. I believe this will help him fight for a spot between two experienced starting quarterbacks. I do not see him starting with Mayfield now in the mix, but you never know what a head coach on the hot seat might do to win. From a fantasy point of view, Corral will hold very little value for the 2022 season. The taxi squad looks to be a permanent home for now. 

Baker Mayfield

Last but certainly not least, we arrive at the king of overcoming adversity: Mayfield. Last year was a sore spot for the former first overall pick. Mayfield finished up the year as QB32 with 12.9 PPG in 14 starts. The biggest reason for his downgrade in play came from a torn labrum in his left shoulder early on in the season. Attempting to play through it to try and win for his team, he ultimately hurt himself physically and lost job security. 

Mayfield now has a fresh start on a new team with at least equal to perhaps better weapons than last year. We will get to all those fantasy-relevant players here soon, but know that Baker has what it takes to secure a starting spot and sustain the assets around him. In 2019, the Browns had two top-25 wide receivers in Jarvis Landry (WR12), Odell Beckham Jr. (WR25), and Nick Chubb finished as RB8 on the year. All of this offense was under Mayfield, so there is no doubt he can provide managers with fantasy football threats. 

Here are some REAL trades that I would recommend for Baker Mayfield in Superflex leagues:

All of these trades are found on DynastyGM trade finder. Use code Noah22 for 15% off your membership. 

My pick on who starts the most games this season: Baker Mayfield

RUNNING BACKS

Christian McCaffrey

Carolina has been without their elite running back, McCaffrey, for the majority of the last two years. The difference in Carolina’s offense with and without CMC being on the field is apparent. In 2021, McCaffrey only played in seven of the seventeen regular season games due to a hamstring sprain in September and then an eventual season-ending ankle sprain in November. The Panthers averaged 321 yards on offense while McCaffrey was on the field last season. In the games he was injured, that figure dropped to only 281.4 yards of offense. Clearly, they are missing the spark that ignites the rest of their weapons. 

Looking forward to the 2022 season, McCaffrey seems healthy and ready to return to the superstar form he was back in 2019. It may feel like forever ago to most fantasy football managers, but that RB1 season was one to remember as he averaged an unfathomable 29.4 PPG. Even if he can produce a fraction of that incredible season-long performance, McCaffrey will easily be a top-five running back. The last two years have left a sour taste in the mouth of some, but the regret of not being “in” on him will be far worse.  

Chuba Hubbard

One of the few people on planet earth who benefitted from McCaffrey’s injury situation last year, Hubbard averaged 10.94 PPG in the ten games he filled in at RB1 for the Panthers. I was left unimpressed with his performance from a fantasy standpoint due to the number of touches he was receiving. It isn’t easy to fill the shoes of arguably the best running back in the NFL, but Hubbard was not the Cinderella for many fantasy managers. The glass slipper didn’t fit, and the Panthers were left with an abysmal 5-12 season. If a fantasy manager is looking to handcuff CMC because of injury worries, I will look at the next option available. Enter: D’Onta Foreman

D’Onta Foreman

I hope this isn’t a name you will need to remember because of McCaffrey’s inability to stay on the football field, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Foreman shared the responsibility of the Tennessee Titans backfield with Dontrell Hillard after Derrick Henry went down last season. This move by the Panthers in free agency was not flashy, but it does provide some much-needed running back depth. While Henry was out last year, Foreman provided 10.4 PPG while splitting carries. This is almost identical to Hubbard’s production, yet Foreman had to deal with another running back in a committee even while Henry was out. If he were to see the workload that Hubbard received, I believe that his production would be more. 

WIDE RECEIVERS

D.J. Moore

One of the NFL’s most promising young WRs, Moore, has shown his abilities despite the faulty QB play in his first four years. According to the Carolina Panthers website, Moore is the only wide receiver with at least 1,200 scrimmage yards in the last three seasons (2019-2021). Not only that, but his career receiving yards of 4,313 ranks him seventh in NFL history for players 24 and younger. There can not be enough said about how impressive Moore has been throughout his career thus far. 

If Mayfield is the starting quarterback for most of the season, I see Moore breaking into the WR1 tier for the first time. With fantasy finishes of WR36, WR19, WR23, and WR18 thus far, I believe this will be the year he makes his mark. As I stated earlier, Mayfield has been able to sustain multiple solid wide receivers in the past for fantasy, so I have no issue with him slinging the ball to Moore. 

Here are some REAL trades that I would recommend for D.J. Moore in 1QB:

Robbie Anderson

Last year was one to forget for Anderson (formerly named Robby). After finishing WR19 in 2020, he failed to catch half the number of receiving yards the following year. This poor performance landed him at WR48, the worst since his rookie year in 2016 with the New York Jets. Anderson is notably not fond of the new addition of Mayfield either. Like anything else today, Anderson posted his thoughts on Mayfield signing with the Panthers on social media this summer before the deal became official. 

All of the issues aside, Anderson still has fantasy value. Last year may not have been entirely his fault, either. There was heavy turmoil in the quarterback room throughout the year, which made it difficult to match up timing. The constant change of passers did not phase Moore quite as much, but Anderson provides more of a deep-ball threat which is hurt by poor quarterback play. At WR87, according to Sleeper ADP, Anderson offers a great return on a cheap investment. 

Terrace Marshall

Without Marshall in the mix, it wouldn’t be a Carolina Panthers fantasy football review. I was also scared of the backlash from Marshall-truthers if he was omitted. There does not seem to be much on the radar for the former second-round pick. If I had Marshall on my team, I would probably be looking to accept my loss and move on. If you have a taxi squad that allows more than one year of eligibility, perhaps let him ride on there for another year, just in case. However, I am ecstatic if I can sell at the cost it took to get him originally (second-round rookie pick). 

TIGHT ENDS

Tommy Tremble

There’s not much to cover in the TE department for the Panthers. In his rookie season, Tremble finished with 20 receptions on 35 targets for 180 yards and one touchdown. After the Dan Arnold trade to Jacksonville, I was hoping for more involvement for the young tight end. Sadly, that never came to fruition. The Panthers hired Ben McAdoo as their offensive coordinator, who coached for the New York Giants from 2014-2017. During his final season, tight end Evan Engram finished as TE5. So, there is possible hope moving forward. This position also takes a few years before players break out. 

Conclusion

The 2022 Carolina Panthers have an exciting mix of players on the offensive side. While I do not expect the team to make the playoffs, they provide a few bonafide fantasy starters in McCaffrey and Moore. If Mayfield can win the starting job, I believe he has the best chance to take the offense to the next level. This will open up more opportunities for guys like Anderson and perhaps even Marshall. If Darnold somehow wins the job, I would not be expecting much to change from last year. 

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