What can the Carolina Panthers do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.
Inside the Locker Room
with Scott Fowler, Charlotte Observer
What sort of impact does Mike Tolbert have on the Jonathan Stewart-DeAngelo Williams timeshare?
Not nearly as major as Cam Newton’s eye for the end zone does, but it will have some impact. In terms of TDs, Williams (seven) and Stewart (five) combined didn’t have as many as Newton last season if you count only the QB’s rushing TDs (14), much less his passing TDs (21). Ron Rivera says he wants to use Tolbert on occasional carries for short yardage and also to flare out of the backfield for passes (which would affect Stewart far more than Williams, as the Panthers throw a lot more to Stewart). Tolbert’s main job, however, will be blocking. Bottom line: Williams and Stewart will still get the bulk of the carries between the 20s, but the Panthers were so successful with Newton running the ball last season near the goal line, so that probably won’t change much. So Williams and Stewart, with the addition of Tolbert, will be slightly less valuable as fantasy players, but not much. Tolbert’s impact will be felt slightly more by Stewart since he will sometimes be the Panthers’ third-down back.
Is there any chance Cam Newton can duplicate the numbers from his record-setting rookie season?
Absolutely. Probably not in rushing touchdowns — the Panthers don’t really want him running the ball quite as much due to injury concerns. Newton set an all-time record for quarterbacks last season with 14 TDs. But his passing TDs (a modest 21) should go up. So his overall total of 35 TDs is certainly reachable, if he can stay healthy (always a question for a running quarterback).
Who is the No. 2 pass-catching option on this offense?
Greg Olsen. To casual fans, he’s a tight end with limited fantasy appeal (540 yards, five TDs in 2011 while splitting time and numbers with Jeremy Shockey). But Olsen’s hands are fantastic, Shockey is gone and Newton loves him on third down in particular. He could be a value pick for fantasy tight ends.
As for wide receivers, Brandon LaFell is a big-play threat (17 yards per catch last season) but not great over the middle. David Gettis will also be a factor early. For the receivers, it’s still Steve Smith at No.1 and "receiver-by-committee" at No.2.
Athlon's Best Bets
Sleeper: David Gettis, WR
Deep-Sleeper: Joe Adams, WR
Overvalued: Cam Newton, QB
Top Rookie: Luke Kuechly, LB
Bounce-Back: James Anderson, LB
Top IDP: Charles Johnson, DE
2012 Draft Class
Midwestern St. (TX)
Fantasy Impact: The Panthers focused this year’s draft on upgrading the defense. Linebacker Luke Kuechly is expected to start right away and was one of college football’s leading tacklers throughout his career at Boston College. He should be targeted in IDP leagues as a late-round sleeper. Frank Alexander should help bolster the pass rush but is probably a long-shot to produce value in IDP formats. Joe Adams will immediately help on special teams and should work his way into snaps on offense as a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver.
Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (ATL, at SD, OAK)
The Panthers’ defense struggled mightily with injuries, and it showed with an emphatic end to the 2012 season — 45 points and 617 yards allowed to New Orleans. Carolina went defense in the first round, fittingly with a linebacker, but that likely won’t help against its three fantasy postseason opponents. As a result, the Panthers offense should put up good numbers trying to keep pace.
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