Carolina Panthers Team Outlook
In this Carolina Panthers Team Outlook, I will focus on each key aspect of the franchise: coaching, the draft, free agency, offensive line, schedule, defense and of course, each relevant Fantasy Football at the key positions: QB, RB, WR, TE and K.
Ron Rivera has 71-56-1 record over eight seasons as the head coach with four playoff appearances and one Super Bowl appearance. Rivera has 22 years of experience in the NFL. Even with his success, Rivera struggled in two of the last three seasons (6-10 and 7-9).
Carolina ranked 14th in score points (376) They climbed to 10th in offensive yards after finishing 19th over the two previous years. Norv Turner dusted off his clipboard after taking 2017 off to take over as the offensive coordinator for the Panthers. From 1991 to 2016, Turner was either a head coach or offensive coordinator in the NFL for nine difference franchises. His offense won the Super Bowl in 1992 and 1993 in Dallas. Norv has a 114-122-1 career record as a head coach with four playoff appearances over 15 seasons.
The Panthers promoted Eric Washington from defensive line coach to defensive coordinator in the after the 2017 season. Washington held his former position for the previous seven years with ten seasons of coaching experience in the NFL. His defense allowed 382 points (19th), which was 55 more than 2017 (327) with fade in his yards allowed (15th).
Panthers Free Agency
In the offseason, Carolina added RB Kenjon Barner, WR Chris Hogan, C Matt Paradis. G Dillon Gordon, and G Kitt O’Brien to their offense. Paradis will start while all other options project to be bench options.
The Panthers lost QB Garrett Gilbert, QB Taylor Heinicke, RB Fozzy Whittaker, RB Travaris Cadet, WR Devin Funchess, WR Damiere Byrd, C Ryan Kalil, G Amini Silatolu, T Marshall Newhouse, and T Chris Clark.
On defense, they signed DE Bruce Irvin and LB Jonathan Celestin. Irvin is a former first-round draft pick with a long resume of success in the NFL.
Carolina moved on from DE Gerald McCoy, DE Wes Horton, LB Thomas Davis, LB David Mayo, LB Ben Jacobs, S Mike Adams, and CB Captain Munnerlyn. DE Julius Peppers also retired after a great career in the NFL. McCoy will be a good addition to the defense.
Panthers Draft Picks
First Round pick, 16th overall: EDGE Brian Burns, Florida St.
In the first round, Carolina invested in pass rushing linebacker Brian Burns. His game is built on attacking from the outside in the pass rush where his speed, quickness, and moves create an edge. He needs to get stronger while adding bulk to his lower body. If stalled at the point of attack, his skill set comes across as mediocre. His range in pursuit grades well while being an unknown in pass coverage.
Second Round pick, 37th overall: OT Greg Little, Ole Miss
T Greg Little was the choice in the second round. His future is at left tackle where his quickness and size project to offer strength in pass protection vs. speed. Little may struggle with bull rushers until his foundation improves. His hands should play well while needing to adding patience to his game plan.
Third Round pick, 100th overall: QB Will Grier, West Virginia
Sensing the life of Cam Newton as the starting quarterback may not last as long as expected, the Panthers drafted QB Will Grier in the third round. His arm isn’t up to NFL standards while lacking the patience to take what a defense gives him. Grier loves to test a defense deep with accuracy and his rhythm. His mechanics need work while also lacking the movements to extend the passing window.
Fourth Round pick, 115th overall: EDGE Christian Miller, Alabama
The Panthers added LB Christian Miller. He brings more explosiveness to the pass rush with speed to create when attacking the line of scrimmage. His strength isn’t where it needs to be to defeat the big bodies on the offensive line. Miller is a developing player once he grows into his frame and adds to his foundation skill set.
Fifth Round pick, 154th overall: RB Jordan Scarlett, Florida
Even with an elite RB on the roster, Carolina drafted RB Jordan Scarlett. His speed and strength rank at the NFL average at his position, but Scarlett lack explosiveness over the short areas of the field. He has misguided patience created by his looking for daylight rather than feeling a hole open. Once in the open field, Jordan can create for himself while finish runs with his strength. Scarlett is a liability in the passing game while having questions about his character.
Sixth Round pick, 212nd overall: T Dennis Daley, South Carolina
In the sixth round, Carolina drafted T Dennis Daley. His technique in pass protection needs plenty of work while showing the base to handle bullies. Daley lacks fire after the snap with self-created miscues. Dennis also needs to clean up his hands.
Seventh Round pick, 237th overall: WR Terry Godwin, Georgia
The Panthers selected WR Terry Godwin with the last draft pick in the seventh round. He projects to be a possession receiver with the route running to excel in the slot. Without adding strength, Godwin doesn’t look ready to offer value at the next level. Terry needs to finish off his pass routes. His hands should be an asset with the talent to make plays after the catch.
Carolina finished 4th in the NFL in rushing yards (2,136) with 17 TDs and 15 runs over 20 yards. They averaged 5.1 yards per carry and 26.0 rushing attempts per game.
The Panthers rebounded to 16th in passing yards (3,836) with 28 TDs and 16 Ints. They gained only 7.2 yards per pass attempt with 52 completions over 20 yards. Their offensive line allowed 32 sacks and 78 QB hits.
LT Taylor Moton
He is a power blocker who will offer more upside once he improves his technique with his hands and his feet. Taylor has some work to do in his pass protection. The Panthers drafted him in the second round in 2017, but he only saw minimal action. Carolina gave Moton one game at left tackle and 15 games at right tackle in 2018 with growth in pass protection. Taylor will be tested if he indeed does switch positions while needing to improve in his run blocking.
LG Greg Van Roten
Van Roten earned the first starting job of his career after signing as an undrafted free agent with the Packers in 2012. He struggled vs. the run while finishing about league average in pass protection. Carolina added T Greg Little in the second round of this year’s draft, which points to him earning a starting job in 2019. If he does, he’ll have a domino effort other players moving around on the offensive line to help the overall blocking scheme.
C Ryan Kalil
He missed eight games over the second half of 2016 due to a right shoulder injury that required surgery in plus another ten games in 2017 with a neck issue. Last season started all 16 games, but he underperformed his previous resume in all areas. At this point in his career, Kalil is at best a league average player.
RG Trai Turner
Turner couldn’t repeat his high level of success in 2015 over his last three seasons, which was partly due to the weakness/injuries around him in the starting lineup. He tends to play well in pass protection while holding his own in the run game. The Panthers selected him in the third round in 2014. In 2018, Turner struggled a run blocker.
RT Daryl Williams
Williams struggled in his first season as a starter for Carolina, but he stepped up in a big way in 2017. A right knee injury in Week 1 that required surgery cost him the remainder of the year. When healthy, Williams had the most value in pass protection while expecting him to be a neutral run blocker.
Carolina Panthers O-Line Fantasy Outlook
This offensive line is loaded with question marks pointing to below average success. If a couple of veterans regain their forms and they top young players perform as expected, the Panthers could surprise in all areas of blocking. A Fantasy owner should be able to see the positives or negatives in each player’s progress early in the year.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing touchdowns (TDS).
This information is based on 2018, which will work as our starting point for 2019. We’ll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We’ll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.
- LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2018.
- Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL.
- Adjustment is based on the 2018 league average and the 2018 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat category and the basis for the strength of schedule.
Panthers Schedule Fantasy Outlook
Carolina has three tough matchups (HOU and NO X 2) for their rushing offense. Their only favorable game looks to be against the Cardinals. Overall, most of their remaining schedule looks to be league average.
On the passing side, the Panthers should have success throwing the ball in five contests (HOU, TB X 2, and NO X 2). Their toughest test in the passing game looks to be against JAX, ARI, and TEN).
Panthers Offense Outlook
A bum shoulder by Cam Newton led to fewer rushing attempts for a team that showcased a special RB in 2018. Carolina wants to be balanced on offense while playing well on defense. Last year they ran the 42.5 percent of the time.
A high-volume pass catching back led to Newton setting a career high in his completion rate (67.9). Over 14 games, Cam gained 3,883 combined yards with 28 TDs with 13 Ints. He passed for 300 or more yards in three games while delivering three TDs or more in four contests. After averaging about nine rushes per game over the first half of the season, Newton saw his value as runner slide in his next six starts (28/146) with no rushing TDs and only 4.7 rushes per game over this span. In January, he had minor surgery on his right shoulder. The Panthers are in transition at the WR position while no longer having a trusted asset at TE. Christian McCaffrey is the only playmaker who also a factor at the goal in TDs.
Newton should be ready for training camp, but Carolina will do their best to keep him healthy and prepared for the regular season. Viable QB2 who will be priced reasonably in the 2019 draft season. His floor is 4,000+ combined yards with about 30 TDs. If his WR core steps up and a bounce back in the run game, Cam can make a push to the top six range.
Update 8/18/2019: Cam Newton has been cleared to play, and he will be in the starting lineup in Week 1.
Other Options: Taylor Heinicke, Will Grier, Kyle Allen
The Panthers figured out how to get McCaffrey rolling in 2018. He responded with an excellent step up in his yards per rush (5.0) after showing weakness in this area in 2017 (3.7). His rushes nearly doubled (219 – 217 in 2017) with a career-high in rushing yards (1,098). With Cam Newton taking fewer chances in the run game, Christian became more of a factor in the run game in TDs (7). His receiving opportunity improved by 20 percent (107/867/5) with an impressive catch rate (86.3). McCaffrey averaged 20.4 touches per game.
He rushed for over 100 yards in four contests (28/184, 17/125/1, 10/106, and 21/101) plus two games with over 100 yards receiving (14/102 and 11/112/1). His floor is high in most weeks due to five catches or more in 13 games. Special back in PPR leagues, but he does play behind a questionable offensive line. More of the same with his results pointing to 2,000+ yards with double-digit TDs and over 100 catches.
Over his final three seasons at Florida, Scarlett worked as a part-time player in two seasons (179/889/6 and 131/776/5) while missing 2017 with an off the field incident with the law (fraud). Jordan has a short resume in the passing game (15/108). He runs with a leg-churning style while showing the ability to bounce off defenders while doing an excellent job of holding onto the football. When given space, Scarlett shows some wiggle and open field ability while lacking a home run gear. This season he’ll compete for the top backup role for the Panthers at RB, which will lead to minimal chances.
In his only full season of action with Auburn, Cameron ran for 1,608 yards on 303 carries with 13 rushing TDs. He also caught 13 passes for 147 yards. CAP doesn’t attack the line of scrimmage when given the ball. He tends to wait for daylight, which hurts his timing to hit possible holes to the second level of the defense. Artis-Payne will run with power and some wiggle in the open field. With a weak offensive line, Cameron is going to deliver many carries with minimal gains. In his rookie season in the NFL, the Panthers gave him 50 touches for 241 yards with a TD and five catches with fading results in 2016 (36/144/2), 2017 (18/95/1), and 2018 (19/69/1). Cameron has ten career catches on 11 targets for 86 yards. Artis-Payne is a low-end insurance policy.
Other Options: Elijah Holyfield, Elijah Hood, Reggie Bonnafon
In his rookie season, Moore caught 55 of 82 passes for 788 yards and two TDs while strength in his catch rate (67.1). He started ten games while flashing in two games (7/157/1 and 8/91) midseason. Over his other 14 games, D.J. had four catches or fewer in 12 contests. He scored over ten Fantasy points in only four other games (1/51/1, 5/90, 5/67, and 4/81).
Over three seasons at Maryland, Moore caught 146 passes for 2,027 yards and 17 TDs highlighted by his junior season in 2017 (80/1033/8). When doing my research on incoming rookies in 2018, I read scouting reports to come up with my initial picture then watched player highlights to get a feel for a player’s movements in game action. When doing the first step of research on Moore, I got the feeling that he was going to project or work as a one-dimensional speed threat in 2018 for the Panthers. His highlights painted a different picture.
Moore is a physical WR who will break many arm tackles while working the short areas of the field on many plays. His open field ability will turn a short pass into long TD if given daylight at the second level of the defense. He didn’t create much separation in the deep passing game even with plus speed, but D.J. did show he could win tightly contested passes. I sense that the Panthers saw some of Steve Smith in his game, which allows Moore to test a defense all over the field. His next step is proving he can beat top CBs in the NFL when drawing WR1 coverage. His game will improve in the NFL, and his style should work well in Newton’s passing game.
In 2019, Moore will be the top WR in Carolina, which points to 70+ catches for 1,000+ yards and six to eight TDs. I expect him to be a back-end WR2 in PPR leagues with more upside if his game turns up a notch.
Coming into the NFL in his rookie season after getting drafted in the second round, I had high hopes for Samuel based on my research and scoring reports:
Ohio State listed Samuel as a running back for his whole career. He had minimal touches in his freshman and sophomore years (899 combined yards with nine TDs and 33 catches). His game shined in all areas in 2016. He rushed the ball 97 times for 771 yards with eight rushing TDs while making a huge step forward as a receiver (74/865/7). Curtis runs with vision, but his ability to outrun defenders drives his success. He has more strength than meets the eye with an excellent gear to create separation on pass routes.
He finished 2017 with only 19 touches for 179 yards and four catches, which in a way show his explosive upside.
Last year after missing the first three games with a chest issue tied to an irregular heartbeat, Curtis worked his way into playable stats in eight games (2/37/1, 1/25/1, 2/58/2, 5/55/1, 2/42/1, 6/96, 4/80, 7/41, and 2/72/1) thanks to his ability to score TDs. His catch rate (60.0) needs work, and Samuel only averaged five targets per game with some value in the run game (8/64/2).
His playmaking upside gives Cam Newton a second WR with upside. Possible 60+ catches for 700+ yards with surprising value in TDs. If he can add another 200+ yards in the run game, Curtis will deliver WR3 value while being drafted as a WR4. I’m intrigued, but I will avoid him if he has any news of an injury over the summer.
Update 8/19/2019: Coming into his rookie season, I loved the potential of Curtis Samuel. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury over the summer, leading minimal chances in 2017. Last year Samuel missed the first four games, and it took him eight games before receiving relevant snaps. Curtis has explosive upside with scoring ability. During training camp, he’s been getting rave reviews with his growth as a route runner, which led to his name pushing up draft boards in August. Samuel could very well beat D.J. Moore in overall stats in 2019 helped by his ability to run the ball (8/84/2 in 2018). On a side note, his experience at RB in college could make him the top handcuff to Christian McCaffery.
Over four seasons at Georgia, Godwin caught 134 passes for 1,880 yards and 12 TDs. His strength is route running while needing to add more power to win off the line of scrimmage. Terry projects as a slot wide receiver who will need time to develop. His best season came in 2017 when he caught 38 passes for 639 yards and six TDs.
Fantasy owners fell for the Hogan trap in 2018. They placed a 4th to 6th round draft value on him in PPR leagues. Chris finished 35 catches for 532 yards and three TDs in 54 targets while playing all 16 games. His stats landed him as the 70th WR in PPR leagues. In his career, Hogan has never caught over 41 passes in a season or over 680 passing yards. With New England over the last three seasons, he caught 28 passes over 20 yards, which was 26.2 percent of catches. Only a deep threat with low upside in TDs unless one of the top two WRs on the Panthers have an injury.
Other Options: Jarius Wright, Torrey Smith, Aldrick Robinson, Rashad Ross, DeAndrew White
After a great career, Olsen lost his way over the last two years due to multiple foot injuries.
Heading in 2017, Olsen had this player profile at Full Time Fantasy Sports: If a Fantasy owner is looking for a player to show up every Sunday, Greg is that guy at TE. He’s never missed a game in his career while setting a high floor over his last three seasons. Olsen has three straight years with over 1,000 yards receiving while averaging just over 80 catches over this span.
His targets have grown in each of his last six seasons (69, 89, 104, 111, 123, 124, and 129). The weaker play of Newton led to a career low in TDs (3) in 2016. Greg scored over 200 Fantasy points in PPR league in his last three full seasons (84/1008/6, 77/1104/7, and 80/1073/3). In 2016, his best success came over the first six games of the season (39 catches for 610 yards and two TDs on 60 targets) highlighted by Week 2 (5/122/1) and Week 5 (9/181). Olsen only scored one TD over the last 12 games of the season.
Well, the safe bet at TE in 2017 and 2018 ended up missing 16 games with minimal success over his other 16 games (44/482/5 on 76 targets). With Olsen out the Panthers’ line most of 2018, the TE position had 65 catches for 671 yards and seven TDs on 91 targets. At age 34, Olsen has become only a wild card at TE due to his foot concerns.
Thomas is going to a project based on his limited experience. Thomas needs to improve his route running while having the speed and quickness to create space on passing routes. His blocking skills look more advanced, thanks to his strength. In his rookie season, Ian caught 36 of his 49 targets for 333 yards and two TDs. Over the last five games, Thomas flashed starting potential in four games (5/46, 9/77, 4/48/1, and 5/61/1) while averaging only 6.4 targets per game. If Greg Olsen has any setback in his game or health, Ian is the natural handcuff at TE.
Other Options: Chris Manhertz, Jason Vander Laan, Marcus Baugh, Cole Hunt
In 2017, Gano led the NFL in success rate (96.7) while making 29 of his 30 field goals. A knee last year led to only 12 games played with respectable success (87.5 percent) in his field goals, but he only managed 16 attempts. Over his last five years with the Panthers, Graham made 132 of 155 FGs (85.2 percent) and 185 of 197 extra points. In his NFL career, Gano is 20-for-35 from 50 yards or longer. His field attempts before last year (35 per year over the previous four seasons) ranks in the top ten in the league. Last year Carolina scored 46 TDs while creating only 21 field goal attempts.
Carolina Panthers Defensive Schedule
The Panthers’ run defense will be challenged in two games (LAR and SEA) while holding an edge in six contests (GB, IND, TB X 2, and ATL X 2). Overall, their run schedule appears to be about neutral.
Carolina will be tested in the passing game in 2019. They have seven matchups (LAR, GB, IND, TB X 2, and ATL X 2) vs. offenses that had success passing the ball in 2018. Their most significant chance for successfully defending the pass should come in five contests (ARI, JAX, TEN, WAS, and SEA).
Carolina Panthers Defense
The Panthers fell to 12th in 2018 in rushing yards allowed (1,804) with 13 TDs and 17 runs over 20 yards. They allowed only 24.0 rushing attempts per game with ball carriers gaining 4.7 yards per rush.
Carolina ranked 18th in passing yards allowed (3,847) with 32 TDs and 13 Ints. Their defense delivered 35 sacks with QBs gaining 7.7 yards per pass attempt.
DE Gerald McCoy has 228 tackles and 45.5 sacks over his last six seasons with Tampa. His run defense improved over the previous three seasons after being league average in this area earlier in his career. McCoy does miss too many tackles. A new home should help his overall success in Carolina.
DE Kawann Short continues to be a top run defender while losing his way in the pass rush (3.0) in 2018. Over the previous three seasons, Short had 24.5 sacks in 48 games. Each year he does miss too many tackles.
DT Dontari Poe tends to be a neutral run defender while failing to have success attacking the QB over the last four years (six sacks).
Shaq Thompson improved his tackle total in each year in the NFL while ranking as an asset in the run defense in each year in the league. He did set a career high in sacks (3.5). Carolina selected him in the first-round in 2015.
Luke Kuechly picked up over 100 tackles in all seven of his seasons in the NFL while chipping in with 13.5 sacks and 55 defended passes. Kuechly plays well vs. the run with value as well in pass coverage. Luke is a former first-round draft pick (2012).
Mario Addison delivered 29.5 sacks over his previous 44 games while showing risk defending the run.
Brian Burns should move into the starting lineup after getting drafted in the first round this year. Burns should beef up the pass rush on the outside with the speed and quickness to handle his responsibility in the run game. He does have questions in pass coverage while needing to get stronger.
CB James Bradberry allowed a too many yards and TDs in 2018, but he did set a career high in defended passes while picking 70 tackles. Over the first two seasons in the league, James wasn’t a difference maker coverage. The Panthers drafted him in the second round in 2016.
CB Donte Jackson has electric speed (4.32) and coverage skills, but he lacks size (5’11” and 178 lbs.) and strength. Even with talent and athletic ability, Donte lacks vision with risk in run support. In his first year in the NFL after Carolina added him in the second round, Jackson struggled in run support with a ton of missed tackles. He graded as a neutral player in coverage.
S Eric Reid tends to be a league average player in all areas. Receivers gain short yards per catch with risk at times after the catch.
S Rashaan Gaulden is another player who lacks upper body strength. His speed (4.61) and quickness won’t be an edge over WRs in the NFL. His best value will be moving toward the line of scrimmage in run support while having risk in coverage.
Panthers Fantasy Defense Outlook
The Panthers should have rush the QB from the outside with some talent at linebackers. Their risk comes in coverage, which would be corrected with a small passing window. They play in a division with talented passing games making Carolina a tough Fantasy start in many weeks. Possible waiver wire scoop when they have a favorable matchup.