2013 Team Outlook: Carolina Panthers
QB Cam Newton, CAR - Stud (low risk)
Entering his third season, Cam Newton is poised as one of the premiere young talents in the league. Despite a slight statistical regression in 2012, Newton still dominated as Carolina's signal-caller. Not only is he a threat to eclipse 4,000 passing yards, Newton has the ability to throw 30 TDs and add 10 TDs on the ground. The Panthers may be thin on playmakers, but this fact forces him to take on more responsibilty of the offense as evidenced by his propensity to simply run it in himself near the goal-line. All fantasy owners need to know is that Newton puts this offense on his back. Among the many young and emerging "dual-threat" quarterbacks out there, the former Auburn star has the bulk and frame to handle far more punishment than Michael Vick, Robert Griffin III or even Colin Kaepernick. In keeper and dynasty leagues, his value is certainly in the Top 5 at his position and he can be the cornerstone of your fantasy franchise in any league format.
UPDATE (11/4): The former Heisman Memorial Trophy winner is having another excellent season, but consistency issues have him underperforming his average draft position coming into the year. Newton currently ranks as fantasy's No. 8 QB. He's on pace for his worst rushing numbers while simultaneously staying on track for a career year as a passer. If he could somehow combine his now improved pass stats with his old rushing totals, especially rushing touchdowns, he could easily catapult himself into the Top 3 at his position. For the moment though, Newton is a mid-QB1 who should stay in starting lineups just about every week.
QB Derek Anderson, CAR - Not Draft Worthy
Even if Cam Newton sustains a serious injury, Derek Anderson's fantasy status would remain close to irrelevant. The Panthers lack the dynamic playmakers in their passing attack to merit a waiver wire claim for the 30-year old quarterback. We're long removed from 2007, Anderson's surprise breakout season with the Cleveland Browns.
RB Jonathan Stewart, CAR - Bust (overvalued)
The Panthers finished 2012 just outside the Top 10 in rushing attempts, an obvious by-product of having Cam Newton under center. Even so, Carolina does lean toward the run, which provides Jonathan Stewart some silver lining. Predicting how the team will divvy out touches and the tenuous and often injury-prone nature of Stewart should be your chief concerns. It is possible though that your fellow league-mates think so little of him that he can provide some value as a bench player. Counting on him as a RB2 or flex is a very risky proposition. He only played in nine games last season and seems to be really struggling with reoccuring foot and ankle injuries.
UPDATE (11/4): Stewart's return finally came in Week 9. The former Oregon back can now be relied upon to see about 10 to 12 touches per game. In deeper leagues where RBs are a true premium, Stewart should be snatched up immediately off the waiver wire.
RB Mike Tolbert, CAR - Deep-league Only
In really deep TD-only league, Mike Tolbert probably has some good value. After all, he has scored 28 touchdowns over his last three seasons. The quintessential goal-line back, Tolbert is a godsend for Carolina, a team that likes to pound it between the tackles inside the five-yard line. Unfortunately, Tolbert is a fantasy vulture, stealing away points from guys like Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. In most leagues, he has minimal value barring an injury ahead of him on the depth chart.
UPDATE (11/4): A healthy Jonathan Stewart will likely decrease the number of Tolbert's change-of-pace carries. He is a sneaky play in TD-only leagues since even Cam Newton is seeing fewer QB draw opportunities near the goal-line. Tolbert is a boom-or-bust play with no real upside though so exercise caution if you decide to add him.
RB DeAngelo Williams, PIT - Gamble (high risk)
It seems every season DeAngelo Williams will put together one fantastic game that injects a tiny amount of hope back into the fantasy community. This spurs a handful of owners to believe that someone in the Panthers' backfield can be relied upon to tote the rock. Wise fantasy owners should know better though. Williams rushed for a paltry 737 yards on 173 carries. 210 of those yards came in the regular season finale, long after most owners had moved on from the former Memphis runner. Unless you have a crystal ball that can foresee when he will have that one great game, it would be best to let someone else try their luck with Williams.
UPDATE (11/4): Williams' first half of the season has enjoyed some positives. His yardage totals have exceeded expectations as evidenced by his Top 20 RB status enjoyed up until Week 9. The concerns moving forward regard how his role will take shape with a healthy Jonathan Stewart back in the mix. A healthy Stewart will only eat into Williams' touch totals and Mike Tolbert continues to poach red zone and goal-line opportunities. The Panthers' offense will need to produce more points and more yards in order for Williams to stay off the bench in most formats.
RB Kenjon Barner, PHI - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Dynasty owners should definitely keep an eye on former Oregon Ducks running back Kenjon Barner. He rushed for 1,767 yards and 21 touchdowns in his senior season. That kind of production in a BCS conference is noteworthy, even for a team that loved to run the ball. Barner is currently buried on the depth chart, so he isn't likely to emerge in the next year or two. On the other hand, the competition in front of him has been shaky in recent years and incapable of carving out a niche for themselves. Be prepared to stash Barner for at least one season.
UPDATE (11/4): The rookie experienced a failure to launch this year. He retains his dynasty value, but since he has been unable to contribute anything meaningful to the Panthers. Give him another year in order to more accurately judge his future potential.