When it comes to calling on Carolina (since their 33-13 beat down by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2008 Divisional playoffs) the Panthers have not answered the fantasy bell much at all. That all changed during the 2011 NFL season as the Cats posted a Top 25 player at each of the fantasy skill positions.
Though they ended the season with a dismal 6-10 record (16-32 since 2008), the Panthers did show flashes of brilliance that could carry over to the 2012 NFL season. Let's catch up on the Panthers as we take an early peak at their prospects on offense for Fantasy 2012.
Carolina Panthers Quarterback Fantasy Options
Fantasy ballers from coast to coast, and around the world, watched with jaws dropped as the NFL 2011 Rookie of the Year QB Cam Newton took the NFL by storm. Newton headed straight to the upper echelon of fantasy quarterbacks, and stayed there all season. The former Auburn Tiger busted out of the gate with 133 FP in his first five games, including a 31.7 FP effort in his first NFL start. Though he couldn't lead the Panthers to the promise land, Newton's 31.3 FP effort in Week 16 may have sealed the deal for many Fantasy owners during their 2011 Fantasy Championship Game.
Newton did over half of his fantasy point scoring with his legs as he rushed for 709 yards and crashed the goal line 14 times in his rookie season. The Panther pivot passed for another 4,051 yards, but finished the season with an ugly 21-17 TD to INT ratio. No league on the planet is better at making off-season defensive adjustments than the NFL. Every team that has Carolina on the 2012 scheduled is already reviewing the Panthers' game film from last season.
Panthers QB Analysis: Someone is going to take Newton way too early during their 2012 Draft – don't be that owner. Remember the words of legendary head coach Bill Walsh: "quarterbacks that can run are nice, but ones that can pass are better".
Carolina Panthers Running Back Fantasy Options
Few players went from beast to bust faster than Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams . From a career high 283.9 FP during the 2008 NFL season, Williams has fallen faster than a shooting star as he's score a combined 324.3 points over the last three seasons. That includes 139.1 FP during NFL 2011. Williams had 155 carries in 2011, Jonathan Stewart had 142 touches, and Newton had 126 rushing attempts – RBC in its purest form!
As part of the dreaded running back by committee approach in Carolina, RB Jonathan Stewart has never lived up to the hype that surrounded him as a first round pick (13th OA) in the 2008 NFL Draft. Stewart was projected to be the lead back for Carolina in 2011, but Williams surprised everyone when he resigned with the Panthers - rather than test the free agent waters.
Panthers RB Analysis: This is a three-headed monster that fantasy owners shouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole on Draft Day 2012.
Carolina Panthers Wide Receiver Fantasy Options
Despite the fact that QB Cam Newton was continually looking to run the ball, WR Steve Smith enjoyed a re-birth of sorts during the 2011 NFL season. After posting just 68.3 FP in 14 games during the 2010 season, Smith came back strong with 187 points in 2011. Smith will be entering his 12th NFL season when the Panthers hit the field in 2012. One has to wonder if he can maintain the pace he set last season.
WR David Gettis is coming off ACL surgery and will battle with Brandon LaFell for the W2 role on the Panthers' depth chart when camps open. After four uneventful seasons as a San Diego Charger, WR Legedu Naanee had a career high 467 receiving yards in his first season with the Panthers. It may be his last season in Carolina, unless he resigns on the cheap as a free agent.
Panthers WR Analysis: Smith turns 33 in May, but still has some gas left in the tank to rate as a low end WR2 selection. The rest of the Cats' wide receiver options are just kittens.
Carolina Panthers Tight End Fantasy Options
Carolina probably expected a little more out of their prized 2010 free agent acquisition than they received from former Chicago Bear TE Greg Olsen . What they got was 540 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Fantasy owners were also hoping for more than the measly 84 fantasy points he chalked up as well. Give Olsen a mulligan here as it was his first season on a new team and he had a run first rookie as his quarterback.
Panthers TE Analysis: If the Panthers can rein Newton in somewhat, Olsen could benefit as Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski normally runs a tight end friendly offense.