The Charlotte Observer's Joe Person named TE Greg Olsen the offensive MVP of Panthers training camp. "Olsen ran fluidly throughout camp, got open and caught most everything thrown at him," Person wrote. "One of [Cam] Newton’s favorite targets appears to be back." Olsen's 2017 campaign was ruined by a broken foot. But he'd finished as a top 7 PPR TE in 5 straight seasons prior to last year. Healthy again, he looks like a value at his 6th-round ADP.
Panthers HC Ron Rivera told ESPN's David Newton that he "wouldn't be surprised" if RB Christian McCaffrey reached 200 carries this season. McCaffrey toted it just 117 times as a rookie last year but still ranked 9th among RBs in PPR points thanks to his 80 receptions. If McCaffrey gets anywhere close to 200 carries this season, he'll be a shoo-in for another top 10 finish. He put on about 5 pounds this offseason to get to 210 in preparation for a bigger workload. Remember that McCaffrey carried 590 times over his final 2 college seasons, so he's proven capable of handling big rushing volume.
Panthers WR Curtis Samuel (ankle) is participating in this week's OTAs. (Here's video of him running a route.) A broken ankle and ligament damage ended Samuel's rookie season last November and required surgery. He had previously said that he was aiming to get back on the field for training camp, so he's seemingly ahead of schedule. The former 2nd-round pick remains an intriguing prospect but will be hard-up for targets this year alongside Devin Funchess, D.J. Moore, Greg Olsen and Christian McCaffrey.
The Panthers on Monday signed RB C.J. Anderson to a 1-year deal. The former Bronco obviously didn't live up to the contract he signed in 2016 after Denver matched Miami's offer sheet to the then-restricted free agent. Anderson posted his 1st career 1,000-yard rushing season in 2017 but rated just 30th and 33rd among 47 qualifying RBs in Football Outsiders' main rushing-efficiency metrics. He arrives in Carolina, however, as a likely upgrade over Jonathan Stewart -- whom the Panthers let walk this offseason. For some reason, Stewart carried 81 more times (in 1 fewer game) than Christian McCaffrey last season, despite averaging only 3.4 yards per rush. Anderson's arrival dings the volume upside for McCaffrey a bit, but the 2nd-year back should still be in for a bigger share of the rushing workload. There's also room for Anderson to carry some fantasy value, primarily in non-PPR formats.
The Panthers selected Indiana TE Ian Thomas with the 1st pick of the 4th round. Thomas didn’t put up big numbers in a mediocre Hoosiers passing game, but he did average 15.0 yards per catch and score on 5 of his 25 grabs this past season. Thomas also tested as a 91st percentile athlete. We see a little Charles Clay in his game. In Carolina, Thomas will sit behind Greg Olsen in the short term. Olsen just signed a 2-year extension but is 33 years old now. Thomas has a shot to be his successor and is worth a look late in dynasty rookie drafts.
The Panthers made Maryland’s D.J. Moore the 1st WR off the board, selecting him with the 24th overall pick. Moore checked in as the #1 WR in our pre-draft rankings. His college numbers don’t jump off the page, but consider that Maryland never ranked better than 102nd in passing yards or 92nd in passing TDs in Moore’s 3 seasons there. He finished top 2 on the team in catches, yards and TDs all 3 years. And in 2017, he accounted for a whopping 45.7% of the team’s catches, 52.3% of the yards and 53.3% of the TDs. Moore is silky smooth on tape with solid route running and after-the-catch ability. He tested as a 97th percentile athlete at the Combine. While he doesn’t have prototypical size at 6’0 and 210 pounds, Moore checks every other box. He joins a Panthers WR corps that includes Devin Funchess, Curtis Samuel, Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright. Moore should immediately challenge for a starting spot and could even challenge Funchess for the #1 WR title this year.
The Panthers have signed TE Greg Olsen to a 2-year, $17.1 million deal. He was set to enter the final year of his contract but is now locked up with the Panthers through the 2020 season. Olsen's 2017 was wrecked by broken right foot, but he did flash with lines of 9-116-1 and 8-107-1 over his final 4 outings (including the playoffs). He'd topped 1,000 yards in each of the previous 3 years. Olsen turned 33 in March, but this extension means the Panthers believe there's plenty of gas left in his tank. He's been going in the later 6th round as TE6 in recent best-ball drafts.
The Broncos are releasing RB C.J. Anderson, according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. It makes sense as a financial move. Anderson would have been due $4.5 million in salary this year and next, with none of that guaranteed. The production has not merited that. After a promising breakthrough in 2014, Anderson played his way into a committee while dealing with lower-body injuries in 2015, then missed 9 games in 2016. He played in all 16 contests last year and topped 15 carries per game for the 2nd straight year but managed just 4.1 yards per rush. Football Outsiders rated Anderson outside the top 30 RBs in rushing efficiency and outside the top 40 in receiving efficiency. The move will leave only Devontae Booker and 2017 rookie De'Angelo Henderson on the RB depth chart, which all but guarantees Denver will draft another back -- probably within the 1st 4 rounds. Don't take Booker or Henderson ahead of the double-digit rounds in best-ball drafting right now. Anderson, meanwhile, should find another suitor before training camp. He's heading into just his age-27 season.
Panthers HC Ron Rivera conceded on Tuesday that there's no timetable for WR Curtis Samuel's return to football activities. He's still rehabbing from a significant November ankle injury that required surgery. Samuel is running "a little bit," according to Rivera, but isn't doing any cutting. There's been nothing to suggest that he won't be ready for the start of the season, but any missed practice time is bad news for a guy who didn't do much as a rookie. Samuel isn't worth a look until the final few rounds of early best-ball drafts.
The Panthers have signed WR Jarius Wright. Although never a real fantasy factor in Minnesota, Wright sports a strong 66.5% career catch rate and 13.3 yards per catch. He's also familiar with OC Norv Turner's offense, having spent 3 years in it in Minnesota. Wright will battle for snaps and targets with Torrey Smith and Curtis Samuel behind Devin Funchess.
The Panthers have acquired WR Torrey Smith from the Eagles in exchange for CB Daryl Worley. Smith lasted just 1 season in Philly, posting a disappointing 36-430-2 line. (Although he also totaled 157 yards and a score in 3 postseason games.) He's theoretically a good fit in Carolina with big-armed Cam Newton and an OC in Norv Turner known for his vertical passing game. But Smith is now 29 and has posted his 2 lowest yards-per-catch averages over the past 2 seasons. We'll see where he fits into the Panthers' offense, but he probably won't be more than a late-round stab in 2018 fantasy drafts.
Panthers WR Curtis Samuel is "optimistic" that he'll be ready for training camp after undergoing surgery to repair a broken bone and ligament damage to his left ankle, according to insider Jordan Rodrigue. Samuel is still in a boot and has no concrete timetable for a return to the field. The fact that he's not a lock for training camp -- over 6 months away -- is a concern. Samuel needs all the reps he can get after a mostly quiet rookie campaign.
Panthers QB Cam Newton suffered "ligament and cartilage damage" in his right knee in the playoff loss to the Saints, the team announced. We don't have any other details on the injury, but Newton isn't expected to need surgery. "He's fine," team spokesman Steven Drummond said. We'll see if Newton is ready for the start of the offseason program. He has a new offense to learn under OC Norv Turner.
The Panthers have hired Norv Turner as their new OC. He brings 26 years of experience as either an NFL HC or OC but is a questionable fit in Carolina. Turner's offense is catered to pocket QBs, rather than dual-threats like Cam Newton. And he favors bell-cow ball-carriers. As talented as RB Christian McCaffrey is, a bell cow he is not. We'll see how successfully Turner is able to morph his offense to fit his personnel in Carolina.
The Panthers have fired OC Mike Shula. He's been with the team since 2011, spending the past 5 seasons as OC. Carolina ranked in the top half of the league in total yards in just 2 of those 5 years, including 19th-place finishes the past 2 seasons. We'll see who the Panthers tab to replace Shula. We're especially curious to see what kind of role the new guy envisions for RB Christian McCaffrey, who caught 80 balls but carried just 117 times as a rookie.
As expected, Panthers WR Devin Funchess is active for today's playoff game against the Saints. He missed Wednesday and Thursday practices before returning to a limited Friday workout because of a shoulder issue. Combine that with Saints CB Marshon Lattimore, and Funchess carries a rough outlook into the Wild Card round. But he's at least available for fantasy football use.
Panthers DE Mario Addison (hip) is active for today's game against the Buccaneers. He put in just a limited practice Friday after sitting out the previous 2 days, but his playing time didn't suffer last week, when the injury occurred. Addison will be worth using in an upside matchup in most cases.
Panthers WR Devin Funchess (shoulder) is active for today’s game against the Bucs. He got in just a limited practice on Friday after aggravating that shoulder injury last week. Funchess is a risk/reward WR2 vs. Tampa’s 32nd-ranked WR defense.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport confirms that Panthers WR Devin Funchess (shoulder) is expected to play against the Bucs today. He's been battling this shoulder injury for a few weeks now and aggravated it in last Sunday's win over the Packers. He got in just 1 limited practice this week. It adds some risk to Funchess' Week 16 profile, but he also has plenty of upside vs. Tampa's 32nd-ranked WR defense.
Panthers DE Mario Addison is questionable for Sunday's game against the Buccaneers with a hip injury. Addison missed practice Wednesday and Thursday before putting in a limited workout Friday. We'll check on his status Sunday morning. Carolina, of course, will definitely go without OLB Thomas Davis, who was suspended 1 game for an illegal hit that left Packers WR Davante Adams concussed.
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