The 2019 season for the Carolina Panthers didn’t go how it looked at the beginning of the season. Cam Newton only played two games, then Kyle Allen taking the reigns. He started well (4-0), then fell off after that (1-6). Rookie Will Grier got his chance to start as well but didn’t fare any better going 0-2. The defense was one of the worst in team history, allowing the most rushing yards in the league. The bright spot was the impressive season from Christian McCaffrey and second-year wide receiver D.J. Moore. The Panthers have lots of new faces on the coaching staff, defense, and a new face at quarterback. Let’s take a look at the fantasy outlook for 2020.
So, there is no more Cam Newton or Kyle Allen in Charlotte. Enter Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater filled in nicely for Drew Brees throwing for nine touchdowns and only two interceptions. He only passed for 1,384 yards, but lead the team to a 5-0 record. Bridgewater won’t be one of the top quarterbacks selected in drafts but could be a steal late in drafts. If in super-flex leagues, he would be a reliable number two quarterback. The Panthers still have the second-year man in Will Grier and former XFL quarterback P.J. Walker. Walker is an exciting addition to the Panthers and reunites with his former coach from Temple, Matt Rhule. He was very impressive in his brief stint with the Houston Roughnecks, finishing with 15 touchdowns, four interceptions, and 1,338 yards in only five games. He could be an exciting guy to add to your roster if you are in deep leagues.
So yeah, Christian McCaffrey had an unbelievable year for the Panthers. He became only the third running back in NFL history to have 1,000 yards in rushing and receiving. McCaffrey saw bumps pretty much everything from his 2018 season. He could see a down-tick on the receiving end with the addition of Robby Anderson to the fold. However, that shouldn’t change McCaffrey from being the downright number one overall pick in most, if not all, fantasy drafts. In super-flex leagues, it might be slightly different. He may not be the 1.01, but shouldn’t be lower than 1.03 in any league. There isn’t much behind him on the roster, so he will continue to get the workload. Reggie Bonnafon could be a valuable handcuff as a free agent pickup or a very late draft pick in startup dynasty leagues.
Outside of D.J. Moore showing up and McCaffrey playing like a wide receiver, the rest of the wide receivers were pretty much non-existent. Curtis Samuel was supposed to breakout last year, but obviously, that didn’t happen. It’s not that he didn’t see the targets (had 105), he just couldn’t convert on them, catching only 54 for 627 yards. This is a make-or-break year for Samuel. He has more competition with the addition of Robby Anderson, but they didn’t add any offensive weapons in the 2020 NFL draft. So the opportunity is still there for Samuel to showcase what he has. Samuel is a fast and versatile player and can help in the run game as well. His ADP has been around #251, which is suitable for a possible breakout that we have been waiting to happen.
The Panthers need more receiving help. As mentioned above, Anderson is a field stretcher and should help open underneath routes for players like Samuel and Ian Thomas. Anderson is a reliable asset. He has played in all but two games in his career, amassing over 750 receiving yards in the past three years. Anderson will be the wide receiver two behind Moore, which should increase his production as well. Surprisingly Anderson’s ADP has been a bit worse than Samuel’s; he is going around #269.
Where do we start with Moore? The Panthers have needed a legit number one receiver ever since Steve Smith was released. His rookie year was pretty good with 788 yards, but only two touchdowns. Moore’s sophomore year was a success. He finished the year with 1,175 yards with four touchdowns on 135 targets. I can see that number staying about the same, especially with the additions they have made. Moore’s ADP has been going around # 32, just after the likes of Allen Robinson, Amari Cooper, and Adam Thielen.
Another familiar face that has graced the Panthers for the past few years is up and gone. Greg Olsen, who has been a significant threat for the Panthers, decided to mutually part ways. In steps third-year tight end, Ian Thomas. With Olsen playing almost the whole season in 2019, Thomas barely saw the field. He was only able to muster 16 receptions (30 targets) with 136 yards. Not something you want to see going into the next season. However, tight end mostly takes a bit longer to develop than wide receivers. Thomas has an excellent chance to break out in 2020 with a new quarterback, new head coach, and new offensive coordinator. He won’t jump into the top 3 overnight, but I could see him being a top 15 tight end by the time the season is over. In start-up drafts, he’s going around #312, practically undrafted, which could be a steal if you believe the hype.
Shaq Thompson, Inside Linebacker
The Panthers probably took their biggest hit on defense not only during the season but in the off-season as well. Luke Kuechly deciding to hang it up came as a shock not only to me but also to the whole league. It leaves a massive hole up the middle for the Panthers to fill. Fortunately for the Panthers, Shaq Thompson played very well inside alongside Kuechly last year. They will be moving back to a 4-3 defense, rather than the 3-4 they played most of last year. Thompson is an excellent breakout candidate this year. He finished 2019 with 109 total tackles with three sacks, 11 tackles for a loss, and three pass defections. You don’t have to spend a high pick on the likes of Darius Leonard (ADP #55), but wait for a few rounds and snag up Thompson (ADP #115).
Jeremy Chinn, Safety
Jeremy Chinn could be the sleeper people are looking for. What some consider as one of the steals of the draft, Chinn has a chance to start right away. He will play alongside Tre Boston in the back and give the Panthers formidable help to stop the big plays they got hit with last season. Chinn finished with 243 tackles over four years at Southern Illinois. Chinn’s ADP sits around #216, behind fellow rookie Xavier McKinney, Karl Joseph, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He could outperform them all. Boston could be a sleeper pick as well, which is going undrafted.
Derrick Brown, Defensive Tackle
The Panthers needed help up the middle after losing the likes of Dontari Poe, Gerald McCoy, and getting thrashed last year. They spent their first-round pick this year on Auburn IDL Derrick Brown. Brown probably won’t be a big help in tackle heavy leagues down the road, but this year he could. After what happened in 2019 to the Panthers, teams could try and take it up the middle again and test this defense giving Brown a boost in year one. In sack heavy leagues, Brown could make a significant impact. Brown had 31.5 sacks in his last three years at Auburn. He is a play-maker up the middle, and for those leagues that start either one or two defensive tackle spots, he is worth a pick in start-up leagues.
Brian Burns, Outside Linebacker
Brian Burns is another one of those guys that can make it a breakout year. He was limited last year only starting five games, but he will get his chance to start this year for the Panthers. With the Panthers going back to a 4-3 set, Burns will play more outside linebacker and 3-4 EDGE. He won’t blow up the stat sheet on tackles, but he will make a name for himself in the sack department. He finished 2019 with 7.5 sacks and 25 total tackles. Burns may not have done a lot in 2019, but 2020 things are looking up for the youngster and is worth adding in leagues.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the article. You can find me on Twitter@ejh1528. Feel free to shoot me any IDP (NFL or Devy) questions you may have, and I would be glad to answer them. You can also check out the IDP Devy Podcast, which I co-host under the @DevyIDPGrind podcast. You can see my previous articles here. Are you a #NerdHerd member& yet? For just $2.99/month, you get access to rankings, extra podcasts, the buy/sell tool, and more on the way.
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