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NFL preseason report: Carolina Panthers

See who’s trending up and who’s trending down throughout Panthers training camp and preseason.

NFL: Carolina Panthers-Training Camp Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

This page will be regularly updated with news and analysis regarding the Panthers’ skill position players throughout training camp and the preseason. ⬆︎ ⬇︎ Indicate which way a player’s fantasy value is trending and (R) denotes rookies.

Warren Sharp projects the Panthers to have the 18th easiest schedule this year.


Cam Newton ⬆︎ -- Cam Newton could be looking at a career year in 2018. Carolina’s schedule, while tough at the beginning and end, is largely made up of opponents with high scoring offenses and bad run defenses. With Cam being a dynamic dual threat quarterback, he’ll likely be put in position to throw and run at a high volume throughout the year.

Exhibit A:

If you’re into taking QBs before the double digit rounds, select Cam with confidence at the back end of the 6th.

Running Back

*Update 8/7/18: We’ll need to monitor the situation to see what Carolina does to address the issue but this tweet from the great Graham Barfield sums things up nicely.

C.J. Anderson ⬆︎ -- C.J. Anderson should be a usable FLEX asset in 2018. Although he’s listed as the starter, this will be much more of a co-starter gig -- and that’s fine. Anderson will be used intelligently to both spell McCaffrey and grind down the defense. I expect 10-15 weekly touches for CJA and although he’s lost a step, that workload will be good for 50-80 yards and a touchdown, given the right matchup.

Christian McCaffrey ⬆︎ -- Prior to researching the Panthers’ 2017 season, I was low on McCaffrey. At this point, however, he’s shooting up my rankings and I’m highly optimistic on his 2018 season. The ever-brilliant Warren Sharp noted in his 2018 Football Preview that McCaffrey was both a terrific early-down receiving option (duh) and a lethal redzone rusher (didn’t see that coming). Given their cake run-defense schedule and his redzone/receiving usage, I expect McCaffrey to surpass his 2.10 ADP.

*Update 8/3/18: This week, head coach Ron Rivera said McCaffrey might see 25 (or more) touches per week. While that’s great to hear, it makes me think Rivera doesn’t actually know how many totes per game RBs typically get. We saw this earlier in the year with Cowboys brass saying Tavon Austin would get 12-24 touches per week. Regardless, Rivera clearly wants us to know that McCaffrey will be featured this season. Draft away!

Cameron Artis-Payne ⬇ -- Artis-Payne would be the next man up, should CJA go down. He’s limited in his ability by being a one dimensional runner.

Elijah Hood ⬇ -- I liked Hood as a possible waiver wire target with upside while he was in Oakland. He’s got an intriguing skill set but won’t see the field without an injury to one of the co-starters.

Kenjon Barner ⬇ -- Barner is likely just a camp body.

Wide Receiver

Devin Funchess ⬆︎ -- Devin Funchess enters a contract year as Carolina’s No. 1 receiver with a schedule that will force the Panthers to throw often in order to stay in games. The return of Greg Olsen and additions of D.J. Moore and Torrey Smith will force coverage away from Funchess and allow him to set career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Ashley Barnett over at Cat Scratch reader noted Funchess’s dynamic contested catch prowess, sure hands, and favorable frame for Norv Turner offense. Draft Funchess confidently as a borderline WR1/WR2 in the 7th round.

D.J. Moore ⬆︎ -- The No. 1 receiver selected in this year’s draft, D.J. Moore possesses elite athleticism and the ability to play both inside and out. He will likely out-snap veteran WR Torrey Smith and solidify himself as Carolina’s No. 2 WR. He’s reportedly looked good in camp and, like Funchess, will have the matchups and volume to produce useful fantasy results. I’ll happily pull the trigger on him in the 11th round.

*Update 8/3/18: Moore has looked great thus far, however, it’s worth noting he’s doing most of his work against fellow up and comer rookie Donte Jackson. It’s great that he’s playing well but we need to temper our excitement for now — a rookie’s a rookie.

Torrey Smith ⬆︎ -- Carolina lacked a true downfield burner in 2017 but in the two years prior, Ted Ginn Jr. helmed that role, delivering a bevy of usable fantasy weeks. Between 2015 and 2016, Ginn posted 1,491 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. Although Smith’s numbers over the last few years are not as impressive, he still has the ability to get open downfield and will produce a number of double digit fantasy weeks for owners who put in the time to effectively play matchups.

Curtis Samuel ⬇ -- Unfortunately, things appear to be trending in the wrong direction for the second year speedster. Avoid Samuel in redraft for now.

*Update 8/3/18: Samuel has apparently looked sharp running routes, moving in and out of his cuts. We may have a battle for the deep ball on our hands.

Damiere Byrd ⬆︎ -- On the off chance that I’m wrong about Torrey Smith, I wouldn’t blame you for taking Byrd very late in redraft. I had him pegged for the Ted Ginn Jr. role last year and was really high on him entering the year before injuries derailed his 2017 campaign.

Jarius Wright ⬇ -- Without an injury to the likes of Funchess, Moore, and Smith there doesn’t appear to be a route to meaningful targets for Wright.

Tight End

Greg Olsen ⬆︎ -- Olsen should once again resume his steady Top 5-10 tight end ways, however, there’s some cause for concern. Last year, Olsen suffered the dreaded Jones Fracture. He’s reportedly doing well in his recovery, but Jones Fractures can be tricky and have a history of being easily reaggravated. To learn more, give this a look-see.

Ian Thomas (R) ⬆︎ -- Thomas has an outrageously high ceiling, career-wise. But, unless Olsen misses time this year, it’s unlikely Thomas takes on a meaningful role. That being said, he’s a name to keep an eye on for dynasty and keeper leagues. Thomas is known for both his work ethic and elite athleticism.