It hasn't been a full week since the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers 24 to 10 in Super Bowl 50. Already, on has the NFL moved. Talk this week has started to settle on the NFL Combine and April's NFL Draft. Many football analysts have come out with their first of the year NFL Draft Predictions.
For Fantasy Football players, one of the key questions regarding Super Bowl 50 runner-up Carolina is whether or not their fantasy stars from the 2015-2016 NFL Season will have the same success in the next NFL Season. The performances of QB Cam Newton, TE Greg Olsen, and RB Jonathan Stewart were so horrible in Super Bowl 50 that there's a legitimate question as to who, if anybody, will step it in FF in 2016-2017.
Carolina Panthers 2016-2017 Fantasy Football Prospects
Carolina Panthers' Schedule Next Season
Carolina has a huge advantage in the NFC South. They play New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Atlanta twice next season. The Panthers went 5 and 1 against their division rivals this past season with the only loss coming to Atlanta in Week 16. New Orleans, Tampa and Atlanta should have better defenses next season than they did last season. But, those defenses are going to have to be much, much better to stop the Carolina Panthers 31 points per game offense.
The schedule outside of the division games could be brutal. Unlike this season when Carolina got to tackle the AFC South with Tennessee, Houston, Indianapolis and Jacksonville and the NFC East with the New York Giants, Philadelphia, Washington and Dallas, Carolina has to tackle the AFC West and the NFC West in 2016. In addition to Super Bowl 50 winner Denver, the AFC West has Kansas City and Oakland, 2 teams with high expectations for their defense. Arizona, Seattle, the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49'ers play in the NFC West.
QB Cam Newton – Don't expect Cam to post the same numbers next season that he posted this season. It's difficult for any quarterback in the NFL to repeat 3,837 yards and 35 touchdown passes with only 10 picks. Cam likely won't rush for 636 yards and 10 TDs either. In fact, unless Newton increases his completion percentage from 59.7% per game, he might be an FF disappointment, but that's only because he's no doubt going to be one of the Top 3 quarterbacks drafted. Defensive coordinators in the NFL will have found a way to defend against Cam's read option attack. Cam should be an above average QB in FF. He just won't justify being one of the Top 3 quarterbacks taken in FF Drafts.
Panthers Receivers – The word is out on TE Greg Olsen. Defensive coordinators know exactly who Cam's security blanket is. Olsen's numbers will decrease. WR Ted Ginn Jr.'s numbers should decrease as well. It's doubtful that Ginn Jr. records anything close to 10 TDs in 2016. What's Ginn Jr.'s loss is WR Kelvin Benjamin's gain. The brilliant wide receiver who missed the entire past season should be healthy by training camp. If Benjamin shows anything during the pre-season target him as the top pass catcher to grab from Carolina. WR Devin Funchess should improve enough to warrant middle round draft consideration.
Panthers Running Backs – FB Mike Tolbert isn't likely to be back. Tolbert fumbled twice in the Super Bowl. You wouldn't draft Tolbert unless you were desperate anyhow. RB Jonathan Stewart should be the workhorse back, but Stewart only rushed for 989 yards during the regular season. He only scored 6 touchdowns. Stewart is definitely worth drafting. Just don't take him early. If you're looking for an under the radar back with Carolina, consider drafting Foswhitt Whittaker. Whittaker only had 25 carries during the regular season but his average per carry came out to 4.3. He also averaged 6.5 yards per carry against Denver in the Super Bowl when rushing for 26 yards from 4 attempts. With a good training camp, he might be worth a stab pick in the later rounds.
Panthers Kicker – Graham Gano made 56 out of 59 xtra point attempts during the regular season. His long field goal was 52 while he completed 50 of 56. He's a solid kicker who should post similar numbers next season that he posted this past season.
Panthers Defense – Carolina's defense could drop precipitously in the yards allowed department next season. The Panthers have a much tougher schedule against teams with terrific offenses. Arizona's offense is better than it showed in the NFC Championship. We saw what Seattle's offense is capable of doing against the Panthers' D. New Orleans scored 22 points against the Panthers' D in the first game and 38 points in the second game. Tampa Bay's offense should improve while Atlanta's could be a Top 10 offensive unit next season. I'm not saying don't draft the Panthers' defense. I'm saying don't get too excited too early about drafting the Panthers' defense.