What is remarkable about the Carolina Panthers the past two seasons is the consistency in its team rushing and passing yards. The team has rushed the ball for 1,659 and 1,679 total yards over the past two seasons, and the running back with the highest total has gotten 897 and 879 yards respectively. While the top wide receivers totals are not as consistent as those of the top RB, the team's total passing yards are more so. In each of the past two seasons, the Panthers have thrown for 3,486 and 3,485 yards.
With Head Coach John Fox entering his sixth season and QB Jake Delhomme returning for his 5th season as the starting QB, there is no reason to believe the offense will be run any differently than it has over the past seasons. Adding to that assumption is the fact the top RB and WR over the past two seasons, DeShaun Foster and Steve Smith, also return. Add in the kicker, John Kasay, is returning for his 13th season, and the Panthers look like a team whose main players can be counted on to produce at the same levels as season's past.
At QB, Jake Delhomme had an injury shortened season in 2006, but still managed to throw for 2,805 yards and 17 TDs while completing 61% of his passes. In 2005, those numbers were 3,421/24/60.2%. If he cannot stay healthy, new back-up QB looks like he can step in based on his completion percentages in his last three seasons in Houston - 68.3, 60.5 and 61.2. With more weapons at his disposal, Carr could very well achieve the status a #1 overall pick should attain.
At RB, Deshaun Foster returns as the nominal starter, but 2nd-year back D'Angelo Williams is pressing for more time. Whether he gets more than he did last season or what Stephen Davis got the season before does not seem as likely when viewed through the prism of the consistency of the Panthers offense. However, Williams may get the goalline touches as Foster's TD production (three and zero the past two seasons) hints at the coaches' confidence in him close to the goal line. Recall Stephen Davis punched in 12 in 2005. Are the hopes of a Maurice Jones-Drew-like season too much to hope for?
Steve Smith will get his 1,200+ yards and 10 TDs passes. The question is whether rookie WR Dwayne Jarrett steps into the #2 WR spot Keyshawn Johnson occupied last season. Here is where a closer look at the past two season's yardage distribution offers a hint. With a healthy Steve Smith in 2005, the WR with the second most receing yards had an ignorable 441 yards. In 2006, with Smith hobbled(?) by a hamstring injury, that same receiver had 815 yards. This indicates that Dwayne Jarrett may not be able to match Keyshawn's totals from last season if Smith is healthy all season. He is still an excellent value pick as a third or fourth receiver in fantasy football, but he may not be able to produce to his expected value. Nevermind the rookie wide receiver issues.
As long as John Kasay can kick a sloth's handful of 50+ yarders, he is a viable kicker to draft, and any defense with Julius Peppers will find itself being drafted, too.
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