The fantasy football season is right around the corner, and the Carolina Panthers are one of the hardest teams to project. Following another disappointing season, the team completely revamped their coaching staff, skill position players, and quarterback room. With all these moving pieces, what can fantasy football managers expect out of the key pieces on this team?
Carolina Panthers Fantasy Football Projections
Quarterback Bryce Young
The Carolina Panthers signed Andy Dalton in free agency but, for the sake of this article, we’re going to assume that Bryce Young wins the Week 1 starting job. The first-overall pick has reportedly performed well at Panthers OTA’s and is far more talented than Dalton. Despite his short stature, he should develop into a franchise quarterback and is a smart investment early in dynasty rookie drafts.
Bryce Young THREADING the needle for a first down at Panther’s OTAs 🎯
Young has reportedly been taking a “majority” of the first team snaps so far at OTAs.
Young has reportedly picked up the Panther’s offense “extremely” fast.
The Panthers rookie QB is a STUD. pic.twitter.com/4WzSz3U4vr
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) May 25, 2023
However, if you’re in a redraft league, you’re probably going to want to look somewhere else to fill your need at quarterback. As with just about any rookie at the position, there are going to be some growing pains, which means you can never start Young with any confidence. Additionally, the Panthers wide receiver room is one of the worst for fantasy football (more on them later), so they won’t be able to bail him out in subpar performances.
The Panthers offense might have trouble moving the ball through the air, but passing is only half the battle in fantasy football. Running quarterbacks are basically a cheat code, but Young doesn’t offer too much upside here. While he possesses above-average mobility, he mostly uses his legs to avoid the rush while keeping his eyes downfield and looking for a target.
This is a good trait for real-life quarterback play, but as far as fantasy football is concerned, this is a bad thing. Throughout his college career, Young has never recorded more than 185 rushing yards in any given season. As far as 2023 is concerned, Young will probably end up as a low-end QB2 or a high-end QB3. He’s a fine streaming option, but you should aim for someone with a higher ceiling.
After signing a massive deal in free agency, Miles Sanders is going to be the unquestioned fantasy football star of the Carolina Panthers backfield. It should go without saying that, while he has Christian McCaffrey’s old job, he’s not going to be as good as the former first-round pick. However, he can still be a viable asset in fantasy football.
— NFL (@NFL) March 15, 2023
Chances are, the Carolina Panthers are going to use Miles Sanders similarly to how they used D’Onta Foreman down the stretch. While some may believe that his contract implies a three-down role, it’s worth noting that Sanders hasn’t exactly earned a large target share. The former Philadelphia Eagle has not eclipsed 28 targets or 200 receiving yards since his rookie season, and anyone that drafted Chase Edmonds last year can tell you that a big contract does not necessarily mean a bigger role.
While there are always exceptions to the rule, generally speaking, players earn their workloads, and seeing as Sanders was never able to earn a large target share in Philadelphia, it’s highly unlikely he’ll be able to do it with the Panthers.
Additionally, historically speaking, head coach Frank Reich does not use a single workhorse running back. The lone exception to this rule was when he had Jonathan Taylor, but it’s safe to say that Sanders is nowhere near as good as the former First-Team All-Pro.
Miles Sanders won’t be the next Christian McCaffrey, but he can still be the most valuable fantasy football asset on the Carolina Panthers. As long as he stays healthy, look for him to finish in the RB15-20 range.
Remember when Adam Thielen was a more reliable fantasy football option than Stefon Diggs? The former Minnesota Viking will probably be the top fantasy football wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers, but he’s not the player he once was. Last year, the former undrafted free agent averaged just 1.15 yards per route run, and he did it with a pretty accurate quarterback in Kirk Cousins. He also finished with a 17% target share, which is a far cry from his 21% number in 2021.
In fairness to Thielen, he was sharing the field with Justin Jefferson, and the superstar wideout is obviously going to earn a larger share of the pie. With no star receiver, Thielen’s target share could return to the 20% range, which gives him a chance to be a WR2. As an added bonus, he’s still a great touchdown threat, as his 22 redzone targets were the fifth-most in the NFL.
D.J. Chark actually had more yards per route than Thielen last year (1.55), but he did that on a dramatically lower target share (13.8%). As these metrics imply, Chark is a home-run hitter that will offer absolutely no week-to-week consistency but could be a savvy late-round pick in Bestball.
Third-year wide receiver Terrace Marshall showed some life down the stretch last season, and at least one beat reporter believes that he could be the Panthers fantasy football WR1 in 2023. While he could be a solid depth receiver, it’s hard to put too much faith in a guy that averaged just 2.2 targets per game after the Robbie Anderson trade.
I think the national media is sleeping on Terrace Marshall Jr. this year. pic.twitter.com/aAT9WV69uh
— Michael Rimmer (@avl_mike) March 20, 2023
Every single year, film bros and analytics nerds face off and battle to the death over one prospect. This year, that player appears to be Jonathan Mingo. While just about every advanced metric out there thinks he’ll be a bust, the tape shows a gifted player that could be a focal point of the passing attack. Perhaps Mingo truly can be the exception to the rule, but betting on outliers is a great way to go broke.
Hayden Hurst will be the top fantasy football tight end on the Carolina Panthers, but that doesn’t mean you should draft him. Tight end is a desolate wasteland, and while Hurst could be a solid bye week streamer, there is no reason to settle for him. If you can’t get one of the elite tight ends, then wait until the end of the draft to shoot for someone with league-winning upside like Chigoziem Okonkwo. If he doesn’t work out, then you can just grab Hurst off the waiver wire.
Main Photo: Jim Dedmon – USA Today Sports