Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin has worked his way back into shape, according to the Charlotte Observer's Jourdan Rodrigue. Benjamin made headlines back in April when he showed up to OTAs overweight. That should be a non-issue, though, as long as he keeps the pounds off between now and the start of training camp. Benjamin has new target competition this season with the arrivals of rookies Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel, but he could still prove to be a value pick at his current WR36 ADP. Benjamin has ranked 15th and 25th, respectively, among WRs in PPR points in his 2 healthy NFL seasons.
Panthers HC Ron Rivera expects QB Cam Newton (shoulder) to throw off to the side during next week's minicamp. He'll be about 11 weeks removed from surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder. It doesn't sound like he's a full-go yet, but he might be by the time training camp opens in late July. Newton could use the practice reps with new weapons Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel.
The Panthers plan on using 2nd-round rookie Curtis Samuel primarily as a slot receiver. “That’s why they’re bringing me in there. They feel like I can help the team a lot," Samuel said. "They told me we’re going to do some [RB] too, but they got a great draft pick in Christian McCaffrey, who is a terrific player. I definitely like the way he plays. I’ll be primarily in the slot, but sometimes we’ll both be in the backfield with Cam (Newton). I feel like it’s going to be great.” Samuel racked up 865 receiving yards, 771 rushing yards and 15 total TDs at Ohio State last year. He boasts 4.3 speed and doesn't turn 21 until August. Although he seems a bit redundant to McCaffrey, there's room for both guys to make plays on the ground and in the air. Samuel is worth considering at the end of the 1st round of dynasty rookie drafts and as a late-round flier in redraft leagues.
Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin showed up for voluntary team workouts overweight, according to the Charlotte Observer. "Am I concerned? Yes, because he is heavy. I'm going to admit that right now," HC Ron Rivera added. "But is he working hard? Absolutely. He's been there everyday and done the things we've asked him to do, and it's all strictly on a voluntary basis." There's obviously plenty of time for Benjamin to get in shape well before training camp starts. But the bigger issue here is whether he has the desire to develop and improve. Benjamin has had weight issues since Florida State redshirted him as a freshman because he was out of shape. We'll see where this goes and where his ADP stands as we get into summer. Carolina added some intriguing offensive parts via the draft in RB Christian McCaffrey and WR Curtis Samuel who could siphon looks from the team's #1 WR.
The Panthers selected Ohio State WR Curtis Samuel with the 40th overall pick of the draft. Samuel started his college career at RB, backing up Ezekiel Elliott in 2014. He started the move to WR the following year and broke out this past season. Samuel led the Buckeyes with 74 catches, 865 yards and 7 TDs — and ran for 771 yards and 8 more TDs on 97 carries. He was the only player in the country to post 700+ rushing and receiving yards. Samuel goes just 5’11, 196 pounds but is electric in the open field and clocked a 4.31-second 40 time at the Combine. He now joins Christian McCaffrey in what should be an explosive Panthers offense. Samuel was announced as a WR and figures to spend the vast majority of his time in the slot.
Panthers GM Dave Gettleman threw out a Curtis Martin comparison when discussing 8th overall pick Christian McCaffrey. “The best tackle-box runner I’ve ever seen is Curtis Martin out of Pitt. Christian is right there with him," Gettleman said. "Running in that tackle box takes unique vision and unique quickness, and he’s got it. Curtis Martin had it, and he had a great career – a Hall of Fame career – and this kid’s got those kind of skills.” It's noteworthy that Gettleman praised McCaffrey's inside running ability. We know he's a big threat outside the tackles and in the passing game, but Carolina clearly sees him as a lead ball-carrier. McCaffrey is a good bet to out-touch veteran RB Jonathan Stewart this year.
The Panthers selected Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey with the 8th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. McCaffrey was a do-it-all weapon for the Cardinal, tallying 3,622 yards and 21 TDs on the ground and 955 yards and 8 more scores through the air over the past 2 seasons. His breakout 2015 campaign — as a true sophomore — featured 2,019 rushing yards (2nd most in the country), 45 catches and 645 receiving yards. McCaffrey was the only player in FBS to lead his school in both rushing and receiving. This past year wasn’t quite as productive, but he still totaled 1,913 yards, averaged 6.3 yards per carry and scored a career-high 16 TDs. He also contributed in the return game, and his 6,191 all-purpose yards over the last 2 years are the most over any 2-year span in FBS history. McCaffrey is lightning-quick on tape and confirmed that with elite 3-cone and shuttle times at the Combine. And despite going just 5’11 and 202 pounds, he proved capable of handling a big workload at Stanford, averaging 23.6 carries per game and missing just 1 contest over the past 2 seasons. McCaffrey figures to share the rushing load with Jonathan Stewart and dominate passing-down work in the short term. Longer term, he’s a guy who could approach or even top 300 total touches.
Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said QB Cam Newton is “on schedule” to participate in training camp. He played the final 4 games of last season with a partially torn rotator cuff and underwent surgery on his right shoulder on March 30. Per the Panthers, Newton should resume throwing around late June. We’ll track his progress throughout the summer as he tries to rebound from a disappointing 2016.
The Panthers have inked RB Jonathan Stewart to a 1-year extension. He was set to hit free agency next offseason but is now signed in Carolina through the 2018 campaign. Stewart turned 30 a few days ago and averaged just 3.8 yards per carry last year, so this is a curious move. He's the favorite, at least at this point, to serve as Carolina's lead back in 2017. But the Panthers are still a candidate to add a RB early in next month's draft.
Panthers QB Cam Newton will undergo surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder on March 30, the team announced. The injury reportedly occurred in Carolina's Week 14 game against the Chargers. Newton completed just 10 of 27 passes for 160 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT in that one. He played in the final 3 games, completing 50.9% of his passes and averaging 245 yards, 1.3 TDs and 1.7 INTs per game. It certainly seems like the injury impacted his play, but it doesn't explain Newton's struggles prior to Week 14. He completed only 54.7% of his passes and averaged 238 yards, 1.3 TDs and .7 INTs in 11 games before the injury. The Panthers hoped rest and rehab would heal Newton's shoulder, but he was still experiencing pain when he resumed throwing earlier this month. So he'll go under the knife. Newton will resume throwing 12 weeks after surgery (late June) and is expected to be ready for the start of training camp. We'll track his recovery.
The Panthers reached a deal late Friday with former Vikings WR Charles Johnson. That gives Carolina both of the NFL's players by that name -- the other plays DE -- as well as a speed receiver to fill Ted Ginn's vacated role. Johnson, of course, failed to deliver much fantasy relevance in Minnesota and will slot behind at least Kelvin Benjamin and TE Greg Olsen in Carolina. He'll likely fit behind WR Devin Funchess as well and will need to compete with fellow free-agent addition Russell Shepard -- plus whoever else arrives this offseason. Don't bet on fantasy impact from Johnson with the Panthers
Panthers HC Ron Rivera said at the Combine Thursday that he wants to scale back QB Cam Newton's rushing attempts. Rivera hinted at this earlier in the offseason, saying, " “our primary runner cannot be our QB." Newton already set career lows with 90 carries and 359 rushing yards last year. A further decline in volume would make it tough for him to score as better than a lower-end QB1. Newton hasn't hit 4,000 passing yards since his 2011 rookie campaign and has only once topped 24 passing TDs.
Panthers TE Greg Olsen (elbow) is active for today’s finale vs. the Bucs. He put in a full practice on Friday, so the elbow doesn’t seem like a major concern. There’s still a chance Olsen is limited in a game that’s meaningless for Carolina, but he’s at least worth sticking with in season-long lineups.
Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart (foot) is active for today’s game against the Bucs. There’s still a chance that his workload is limited in a game that means nothing to Carolina, making Stewart a risk/reward fantasy play.
Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart (foot) is listed as questionable for this weekend’s game against the Bucs. He didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday but was a full-go on Friday. That suggests that he’ll play, but his workload could still be limited in a game that means nothing to Carolina.
Panthers TE Greg Olsen (elbow) is officially questionable for Sunday’s finale vs. the Bucs. He put in a full practice on Friday after sitting out the previous 2 days, so it looks like he’ll play. Olsen hasn’t missed a game since his 2007 rookie campaign.
Panthers WR Devin Funchess has been placed on IR with the knee injury he suffered in last week's loss to the Falcons. He'll miss Sunday's finale vs. the Bucs. Funchess finishes his 2nd season with a 23-371-4 line in 15 appearances. All 3 marks were down from his 2015 rookie campaign.
Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart missed practice on both Wednesday and Thursday with a foot injury. His last carry in Week 16 came late in the 3rd quarter. It looks like he's in danger of missing this weekend's finale -- which, of course, is meaningless to the Panthers. Stewart's absence would leave Carolina's backfield to Cameron Artis-Payne and Fozzy Whittaker.
Panthers HC Ron Rivera confirmed Wednesday that MLB Luke Kuechly will sit out Sunday's season finale against the Buccaneers. Kuechly has cleared the concussion protocol, but Carolina has elected to keep him out of the final few games. Two straight seasons of multiple-game absences for concussions raises questions about Kuechly's long-term future, though he has said he's not considering retirement. We'll see what else this story has in the offseason. A.J. Klein will start in his place again, but OLB Shaq Thompson has passed him to sit #2 behind Thomas Davis in playing time among Carolina LBs.
Panthers WR Devin Funchess suffered a knee injury in the 2nd half of Sunday's game against the Falcons and is officially questionable to return. He hauled in just 1 of 5 targets for 9 yards before exiting. The 2nd-year wideout hasn't topped 3 catches in a game all season.
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