QB Cam Newton (QB - #6) - Stud (low risk)
Cam Newton was one of the most pleasant surprises in all of fantasy football last season, outperforming even the most outlandish expectations by throwing for over 4,000 yards and 21 touchdowns and rushing for over 700 yards and 14 touchdowns as a rookie. While a regression is certainly possible, all signs point to Newton building on his impressive rookie campaign. Fantasy owners should target Newton as a top five quarterback on draft day.
RB Jonathan Stewart (RB - #27) - Gamble (high risk)
The Daily Show has been a colossal disappointment for fantasy owners the last two seasons and with the Panthers' backfield situation more crowded than ever, it may be best to just stay away from this situation altogether this season. While Jonathan Stewart scored only four rushing touchdowns, he did manage to get more involved in the passing game by reeling in 47 passes for 413 yards and a score. Stewart is rumoured to be on the trading block and is in the final year of his contract; fantasy owners would be wise to steer clear.
RB DeAngelo Williams (RB - #38) - Gamble (high risk)
The Panthers' backfield situation is a mess. There are just too many mouths to feed between DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. That list doesn't even include quarterback Cam Newton, who is a factor in the run game. Williams was productive last season (rushing for 836 yards and seven touchdowns), but his upside is limited due to questions about his workload. Fantasy owners should consider Williams a solid number three running back this season.
RB Mike Tolbert (RB - #48) - Deep-league Only
The Panthers' crowded backfield situation got even more complicated with former San Diego goalline specialist Mike Tolbert signing a one-year contract as a free agent this offseason. Tolbert will likely see some work as a goalline vulture, which is where Cam Newton excelled last season. Tolbert is worth a speculative pickup in the late rounds of fantasy drafts this season.
WR Steve Smith (WR - #12) - Solid/Safe Pick
Steve Smith experienced a renaissance year with rookie Cam Newton under center last season. Smith eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving for the first time since 2008, finishing the season with 79 receptions for 1,394 yards and seven touchdowns. As a result of his resurgence, Smith was rewarded by Carolina with a three-year contract extension in the offseason. At age 33, Smith still has explosive speed that makes him a vertical weapon in the passing game, and he remains a solid fantasy wide receiver.
WR Brandon LaFell (WR - #36) - Sleeper (undervalued)
Brandon LaFell took a big step forward in his second season, catching 36 passes for 613 yards and three touchdowns last season. If LaFell can build on his sophomore campaign and hold off newly acquired wide receiver Louis Murphy then he could be poised for a breakout in his third year starting opposite Steve Smith. LaFell is worth a late round flier on draft day.
WR Louis Murphy (WR - #100) - Deep-league Only
Once a rising receiver for the Raiders, Louis Murphy became an afterthough in the Oakland passing game last season and was shipped to Carolina this offseason. The Panthers' options behind Steve Smith remain a work in progress and Murphy's experience could give him a leg up on the third wide receiver gig. Regardless, considering he plays in a run-heavy offense and would be behind Smith, tight end Greg Olsen and wideout Brandon LaFell in the target hierarchy, don't bother targeting Murphy in drafts.
WR David Gettis (WR - #121) - Low Potential
David Gettis showed flashes of what he is capable of as a rookie, but suffered a torn ACL and missed all of last season. With Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell locked in as the teams starters, Gettis will have to prove he is fully healthy and make an impact as a third wide receiver in the Carolina offense this season. Fantasy owners can ignore Gettis on draft day.
TE Greg Olsen (TE - #13) - Quality Backup
Greg Olsen was one of the most hyped tight ends in fantasy football after being acquired in a trade by Carolina last season. Olsen underwhelmed, catching just 45 passes for 540 yards and five touchdowns. Olsen has the potential to develop into an elite fantasy tight end, but has yet to put it all together. Olsen might still be worth a shot as a late round pickup in fantasy drafts, but nothing more.
Carolina Defense (Def - #28) - Deep-league Only
The Carolina Panthers were one of the worst defenses in football last season. With standout defensive end Charles Johnson banged up and middle linebacker Jon Beason still recovering from an injury that caused him to miss all of last season, this unit is in trouble, though rookie LB Luke Kuechly might become an immediate IDP star. Head Coach Ron Rivera is a defensive specialist, but he has his work cut out for him if he's going to turn this unit around. Fantasy owners are better off staying away from this defense entirely this season.