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What You Need to Know:
-- Bridgewater has ranked among the league’s most accurate passers throughout his career.
-- His new OC, Joe Brady, coordinated LSU’s historic passing game in 2019.
-- The Panthers sport possibly the league’s speediest group of pass-catchers.
-- Bridgewater ain’t your deep-ball guy.
Here’s what we know about Bridgewater: He’s not much of a deep passer, but he’s highly accurate in the short range.
Bridgewater filled in for Drew Brees over 5 starts in New Orleans last season (plus half of the Rams game Brees left early). He compiled the league’s shortest average depth of target, at just 6.1 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. That was short even by his standards, impacted by an offense that ranked 4th in RB target share. (Drew Brees tied for 3rd-shortest at 6.9.)
But Bridgewater has previously come out on the short end of that category. As a 2014 rookie with the Vikings, he posted the 6th shortest ADOT (7.9). The next season found him tied for 5th-shortest (7.5).
Carolina’s new starter, however, has also delivered top-notch accuracy. Only Brees and Derek Carr among multi-game starters last year beat Bridgewater in PFF’s adjusted completion rate (80.6%), which filters out drops, throw-aways, spikes, batted passes and passes thrown while being hit. Bridgewater had also previously won in that category, ranking 4th as a 2014 rookie (who started 12 games) and then 2nd in 2015, behind only Bengals 3-game starter A.J. McCarron.
The New Offense
The accuracy was the obvious selling point for the Panthers, who signed Bridgewater to a 3-year, $63 million deal that locks him in for at least the next 2 seasons.
Before signing Bridgewater, Carolina imported a new coaching staff. HC Matt Rhule arrives after 11 years as a college OC or HC, first at Temple and then at Baylor (the past 3). His 11 offenses averaged a 54.5% rushing share. We certainly don’t expect that level of lean in the NFL but will be curious to see how much that influences Carolina’s run-pass split.
Rhule selected LSU passing-game coordinator Joe Brady to run his offense, and the whole situation will be interesting to watch. Brady generates understandable excitement after what the Tigers did last season. They set the FBS record for points while becoming the 1st team to produce a 5,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers. Playing an abnormal 15 games obviously helped the totals, but LSU cracked 40 points against 5 different AP Top 10 opponents. Clearly, it was a special offense.
However, last season also marked the 1st time the 30-year-old Brady has served in a coordinator role. He previously spent 2017-18 as an offensive assistant with the Saints, 2015-16 as a grad assistant at Penn State and 2013-14 as LBs coach at FCS William & Mary (where he had played WR).
Perhaps Brady continues on his wunderkind path and pilots an electric Panthers offense this season. But it’s also possible that a pair of coaches with little NFL experience need a little time to get acclimated to the league.
They -- and Bridgewater -- will certainly have plenty of receiving talent to work with.
Christian McCaffrey just finished becoming the 3rd player in NFL history to rack up 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. D.J. Moore broke out in Year 2, ranking 10th among wideouts in receptions and 8th in receiving yards. Curtis Samuel used his speed to gobble up a whole bunch of air yards that Kyle Allen struggled to turn into actual production (via completions). And Carolina imported Robby Anderson in free agency. Anderson played for Rhule back at Temple, where Rhule fought to get him allowed back onto the field amid off-field issues.
That gives the Panthers 3 WRs who all run sub-4.43 in the 40 -- as well as a RB who runs a 4.48. Bridgewater might not be the optimal passer for leveraging that speed deep. But you can bet the new Panthers coaches plan to design plenty of shorter routes that seek to create space and then hit these speedsters in stride.
Bridgewater just might be an ideal option for that.
Draft Sharks Bottom Line:
We haven’t seen Bridgewater start for even half a season since 2015. We haven’t seen OC Joe Brady serve as more than an offensive assistant in the pros, or even as a full OC in college. And we haven’t seen HC Matt Rhule in the NFL at all. There’s a lot of unknown with the Panthers this season.
But Bridgewater’s ADP sits at the bottom of QB2 territory. At that level, we don’t need to be able to map his path to fantasy relevance. You can take a shot on him here or there as a backup -- especially behind a near-weekly starter -- and see if Carolina’s new offensive braintrust can leverage the enviable speed and receiving talent. It doesn’t hurt that Bridgewater is an easy guy to root for.