Projecting the Numbers: Carolina Panthers

With the NFL Draft over and free agency largely finished many of us in the fantasy community are trying to visualize what these teams will look like on paper. This is the time of the year where we must put in the hard work if we want to ultimately bring home the hardware. In this article, we are going to be looking at where I think the ball will be going in the Carolina offense. This is a team that didn’t make a whole lot of moves on offense until the C.J. Anderson signing. They bring in a dinosaur of an offensive coordinator in Norv Turner, who has the reputation for being a boring play caller as well as leaning largely on the running game.

Norv Turner does have multiple seasons where his offense ran the ball north of 50%, granted most of those seasons were 10+ years ago. As offensive coordinator, Norv has thrown the ball 54.1% of the time which is a slightly higher rate than what Carolina threw last year (roughly 52%). Last year Carolina was  middle of the pack in total number of offensive plays ran (1,026 total plays). Norv Turner’s pace of play for his offenses is typically a slower offense with fewer plays overall. As strictly the offensive coordinator, the only time his offense ran over 1,000 total plays was in 2013 with the Cleveland Browns. Cam Newton is the best quarterback he’s had since Drew Brees in 2001. With Turner calling the shots for the Panthers this year, I expect the run/pass ratio to be right around the same as last year and see this team right around the tops of the league in rushing attempts and rushing yards. While Norv doesn’t really bring anything exciting to the table, they will at least get Greg Olsen back and hopefully fully healthy, they signed their Jonathan Stewart replacement in C.J. Anderson, and they got a new shiny toy with 1st round pick D.J. Moore.

Passing Attack

I always saw Cam Newton as an average passer that tried to cancel out his less than stellar accuracy by throwing the ball up to his big-bodied receivers. Cam has only hit 60% of his passes twice in his career: his rookie season and in 2013. Getting Greg Olsen back should help , but I’m not so sure that will be enough to push him over that mark. The Carolina Panthers ran about 47% of their plays out of 11 personnel, which is well below the league average (59%) and while they did add D.J. Moore to their arsenal, I don’t see that number jumping very much. I see Funchess being the X receiver and D.J. as a flanker that they can also kick inside if need be with Greg Olsen having total command over the middle of the field. Overall Cam’s passing numbers should see a small bump up from last year, I can see his projections looking something like this:

Not bad, right? This stat line here would be good for about 300 fantasy points give or take, which would have been good for QB2 last year for most leagues. He was QB3 last year, so why not?

Running Backs

With Jonathan Stewart being let go and the Panthers electing not to draft a running back in the draft or signing a running back during the main phase of free agency, it looked like all the stars aligned for Christian McCaffrey to take on an every-down workhorse load. That hope evaporated once they signed C.J. Anderson. I think C.J. can fill in that Jonathan Stewart role just fine. Last year, Stewart had 198 carries and it seemed like many times he ran into a brick wall. C-Mac only received 117 carries his rookie year and even with C.J. being brought in there to take away some of the inside carries, I can easily see that number still going up, even if it’s only marginally. If C.J. Anderson were to get say 85% of the carries that Jonathan Stewart got last year, that would put him at about 168 carries. I can see Cam running the ball a little less than last year but not by much (considering he had a mild knee injury these past playoffs), so I feel comfortable with putting C.J. around 185 carries. Here’s how I see the rushing share playing out:

I really wanted to give McCaffrey some more work, but with the pace of play that Norv Turner employs, I just don’t see how it could go too much higher. I have Carolina falling just shy of 1,000 total plays ran this year.

(Photo by: Jason E. Miczek / AP)

Wide Receivers & Tight Ends

The biggest question that I’m sure a lot of people are wondering is how are these passing targets going to shake out? Last year with Kelvin Benjamin being shipped off to Buffalo and with Greg Olsen being out for most of the year, it gave Devin Funchess the chance to flourish with an expanded role. Bunches of Funchess really came through down the stretch! Accumulating 111 targets and hauling in 63 of them for 840 yards and 8, count them 8 touchdowns. Greg Olsen  will return to the lineup along with the addition of D.J. Moore and it’s easy to see Funchess’ targets and production dropping. Last year Funchess commanded about 22% of his team’s total market share. Not counting last year, since arriving in Carolina in 2011, Greg Olsen has averaged 113.33 targets a year. He is getting older and I could see his production slip a bit, he may not be the same 1,000-yard guy that we are all accustomed to, but I still see him as their best option to throw to.

D.J. Moore , is a receiver that I love, but I find it kind of hard to project his numbers as of now. I could see a scenario where D.J. is the 1B to Funchess, but I also can see where he can end up being the fourth option in that passing attack behind Olsen Funchess and McCaffrey. Carolina also traded for Torrey Smith, but I’m sure we all view him as simply an ancillary receiver. What do you think of these projections?

Would you be happy with those numbers if you spent a mid-1st round pick on D.J. Moore for you dynasty players?

I don’t think Norv Turner will be all that good for this offense, I wish Carolina would have gone with someone more creative. The run heavy scheme should help C.J. Anderson and not do a whole lot for Christian McCaffrey. Carolina was always going to bring in another back to replace Jonathan Stewart. The return of Greg Olsen will likely eat into Devin Funchess’ production a little bit and leaves a big question mark about the amount of targets D.J. Moore will get. Now a lot can change from now until September and we are sure to hear some hype and pump up stories about D.J. Moore and Christian McCaffrey.

Do you agree with these projections? Let me know on Twitter who you think is too high or too low, I would love to hear everyone’s feedback!







Main Brain of @the5thdownff podcast. Writer @DFF_Fantasy #DFFArmy PPR or die. King of the short bus. Slave of the playground. #SFB7

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