2014 Team Outlook: Carolina Panthers
QB Cam Newton, CAR - Solid/Safe Pick
Cam Newton is coming back from offseason ankle surgery and he is expected to be 100-percent by late June to early July. The ankle should have no effect on his play. A lot has been made of Newton's receiving corps (or lack thereof). They are really not that bad and he has a few of veterans who know how to get open. Cotchery, Underwood, and Avant have all performed very well in limited opportunities. None of them are a true No. 1 receiver; however, each can make a play when called upon. He also has young receivers Tavarres King and Marvin McNutt. Both have upside and showed some of that during last year's preseason, Neither have amounted to anything just yet and both ended up buried on the bench. The Panthers' top pass-catcher may be tight end Greg Olsen, whom they backed up with Ed Dickson for insurance. Carolina also drafted Kelvin Benjamin out of Florida State with their first round pick. He is a huge target that can pull the ball down out of a crowd. When Newton's in trouble, Benjamin is a guy that can be thrown to even when covered. Newton can also leans on a stable of running backs. It goes without saying that Newton may be the best running QB in the league, especially in the red zone. His size allows him to do a lot more between the tackles than a Mike Vick or RG3 can. This may be the year Newton really pulls away from the pack as a superstar; he'll just need his passing stats to pick up where his rushes end.
Editor's note: Leagues which reward six points for passing TDs slightly reduce the value of dual-threat QBs like Newton.
QB Derek Anderson, CAR - Not Draft Worthy
Anderson has only thrown four passes in three years for Carolina. He is a 30-year-old veteran backup. Anderson did somehow manage one Pro Bowl season in 2007 back in Cleveland. That was a bit of a fluke though and those days are long behind him. He was never able to repeat that magical 2007 and has progressively done very little ever since. Even if Newton goes down to injury, Anderson isn't worth a look. He will struggle behind a sub-standard offensive line and the offense brings almost nothing to the table.
RB Jonathan Stewart, CAR - Bust (overvalued)
After missing just about all of 2013 due to a toe injury, Jonathan Stewart is reportedly the healthiest he has been since 2011. He must now prove he can stay healthy over a 16-game season. Stewart has been the "two" in a one-two punch combination with DeAngelo Willliams. The backfield is a little more crowded now though. Even if healthy, his rushing yards will be limited by the presence of Williams, Mike Tolbert, Cam Newton and perhaps the occasional carry from Kenjon Barner. Stewart does add some PPR value because he is the Panthers' best pass-catcher out of the backfield. Don't expect many TDs since the Panthers prefer to use Tolbert and Newton from up close. Stewart has limited value across all formats.
RB Mike Tolbert, CAR - Deep-league Only
Mike Tolbert looks more like a competitive eater than a NFL running back, but don't be fooled; the man can play. He is quick for his size and very tough around the goal-line. His ceiling for rushing yards is 250 at most, but he is a perfect desperation bye week add off the waiver wire. The phrase "touchdown vulture" was created specifically for Tolbert. Having a guy that can find the end zone is never a bad thing. He is least unsettled by the crowded backfield because he has his niche and the only teammate he is in competition with is Cam Newton. Cross your fingers if you start Tolbert, though. He doesn't score that often.
RB DeAngelo Williams, PIT - Bye Week Fill-in
THE NOT VERY GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY: DeAngelo Williams had some very strong fantasy years back in the day. He has been trapped in a two-back system with Jonathan Stewart since 2009, although J-Stew is rarely healthy enough to compete. Williams peaked in 2008 when he rushed for over 1,500 yards and scored 20 touchdowns. That may as well be a million years ago. Over the past three seasons, Williams is averaging about 800 yards and six TDs per season. Now 31 years old, he is stuck in a very crowded backfield. He will be battling a somewhat rejuvenated Stewart, touchdown vulture Mike Tolbert, second-year runner Kenjon Barner, and Cam Newton for carries. With his role unknown and a cast of characters supplanting him based on down and distance, Williams is a flex play at best, with a touch more upside in PPR scoring.
RB Kenjon Barner, PHI - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Barner looked very good last preseason before injuring his ankle. He never worked his way back into a crowded rotation, but Jonathan Stewart has had numerous health issues and DeAngelo Williams is now 31 years old. This parting of the seas could open the door for Barner. The second-year back out of Oregon may be a dark horse, so don't let him fall off your radar in dynasty leagues. If this kid gets a shot this season, he may just make the most of it. Barner is a deep sleeper in redraft and a dynasty staple. Things must break in his favor; nonetheless, he has a real shot to be the Panthers' lead back very soon.