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Carolina Panthers Fantasy Analysis: Best Player, Sleeper

Jaxon of  Cat Scratch Reader, the SBNation's blog on the Carolina Panthers, brings fantasy tips for the team.

Way back in June I reported on the Carolina Panthers Fantasy prospects and would like to offer the following update based on the preseason.

Outside of leagues full of Panther fans you should be able to get Panthers at good value. If you believe, like I do, that the Panther offense will be much improved, then you will want to target the following players in the rounds suggested based on a ten team league:

Best Player - Steve Smith (ESPN Rank #27)

In past seasons, Smith was a sure fire 2nd round pick, but he will probably slip to the 3rd round this season given the two week suspension he was served for punching teammate Ken Lucas. If you get him there, it will be good value in spite of missing the first two games as I expect the return of Jake Delhomme will spark Smith’s production. I’m going to predict 1,150 yards and 10 TD’s through the air. He will add another 120 yards and a TD on the ground. I originally had Smith pegged as a Top 5 WR but missing two games will cost him in many ways. He will crack the top 10 at best.

Sleeper - Jake Delhomme (#200+)

Jake will get no respect in the preseason and fantasy drafts alike. He will still be available in most leagues in the 10th round. I would not draft him to be your starter simply because you should be able to get him as a back-up. I think he will be a huge sleeper at QB as the improved running game will open up the passing game. I’m going to revise my earlier prediction down a tad to 2,800 yards and 24 TD’s with 11 INT’s since it seems the Panthers will be a run first team. Jake will be a good back-up who you can start depending of the match-up. Given the Panthers have a fairly easy schedule there should be opportunity for spot starts. Who knows, he can easily end up starter material if the offense starts clicking.

DeAngelo Williams (#79)

D-Will will start the season at #1 RB and get his share of carries. The problem is that J-Stew may steal his TD’s similar to what Marion Barber did in Dallas and Julius Jones. I say “may steal his TD’s” because in the preseason the Panthers didn’t shy away from him in goal line situations. Given D-Will averaged almost 5 yards per carry I expect him to top 1,000 yards in a season for the first time. Resist the temptation to take D-Will early as he is no more than a 6th rounder. I’m still going to predict 1,000 yards rushing and 4 TD’s. He will also add 300 yards in the air and 2 more TD’s as D-Will has the capability of breaking long TD’s.

Jonathan Stewart (#65)

Though ESPN has him going in the 6th round Stewart is the most likely Panther to get drafted too early. Many people will speculate on him winning a starting job out of the preseason and subsequent breakout season as the Adrian Peterson effect takes hold. I would love to see it but it would be a big risk fantasy wise. I think Stewart will start slow but rack up some short yardage TD’s as he becomes a specialist in that area. Stewart will finish strong though and end up with 800 yards and but I’m going to adjust his TD’s down a tad to 10. It’s hard to predict his receiving yardage but I have heard he can catch the ball out of the backfield. He could end up adding 200-300 yards in the air and another 3-4 TD’s. Certainly a nice season for a rookie but you want more from a #2 RB which is where he will be drafted in many leagues. If he’s there in the 5th round take him but I doubt he will be there as again many people look for the next AP.

 Muhsin Muhammad (#178)

It’s hard to say whether Moose will be reliable enough for spot starts. It will depend on the match-up but he will put up an occasional good game. I expect 800 yards and 4 TD’s from Moose as he becomes the #2 WR in the offense. Moose should be worth a late round pick on your team depending on how many rounds you have.

Fantasy DUD - D.J. Hackett (#106)

Hackett has been a bit on an enigma in Carolina as he has sat out the entire preseason nursing an injury, not a great start for a guy close to wearing the “injury-prone” collar. He will get draft higher than Moose but won’t equal his stats. I expect Hackett to put up 650 yards and 3 TD’s in part time work as I expect him to miss some games at some point. He will get drafted but I would take a wait and see approach. If he starts slow he will probably be out there on the waiver wire and will be worth a look as he takes time to build a rapport with his new QB. If he should somehow stay injury free this season then he could work up to a #2 receiver. More than likely he gets dinged at some point and misses some games.

Jeff King

TE Jeff King has little fantasy value but may be worth an occasional start based on the match-up. I can’t see going for more than 300 yards and 3 TD’s on the season but it will be hard to predict when he will get his yards.

John Kasay

I think John Kasay will benefit from the improved offense and be a top 10 kicker. In spite of his age Kasay showed in the preseason he can still hit from 50+ yards, nailing a 52 yarder against the Redskins. Head coach John Fox also doesn’t hesitate to let Kasay let it rip from up to 54 yards. I think he will hit 26 FG’s and all his point-afters to top 100 points pretty easily.

Panthers D/Special Teams

The Panther D will get no respect given their next to last place finish in sacks in 2007. They will fair a little better this season though you can expect  them to be available in the late rounds. Given the Panthers start the season against the Chargers they should go undrafted if not for the optimistic Panther fan. Prior to the preseason I expected the Panther D to be middle of the road at best fantasy-wise. After seeing the Panthers run more stunts and blitzes and seeing an obviously reenergized Julius Peppers they look to be much improved and may be worth a spot start given their fairly easy schedule. I think they will be a serviceable #2 defense with spot starts against their lesser opponents.