Despite the fact that there are many NFL and fantasy football fans who pick over offseason news with a fine-tooth comb, we understand that there are still a lot of you out there who simply don't have time to keep up with player movements or the happenings of each team. That's why yours truly is here to give you the lowdown on the recent 2014 news of each team, both AFC and NFC and how it impacts your fantasy football league/team.
With the NFC East and NFC North under my belt, now is time to focus on one of the toughest divisions in the NFL; the NFC South. As if the Falcons had to deal with the offensive powerhouse of the Saints, the Buccaneers won't make it any easier with all the offensive changes the team made in the offseason.
With a 1-3 start in the first four games of the 2013 season, including losses to the Seahawks, Bills and Cardinals, QB Cam Newton and the Panthers stepped up their game, winning 11 out of their next 12 contests and winning the NFC South Division with a 12-4 record. It was a Pro Bowl year for Newton, but fantasy football owners didn't see it that way. Despite a career high 24 touchdown passes, Newton's passing yards per game (211), rushing yards per game (36) and total rushing scores (6) were all career lows. Newton will definitely want to bounce back, but this year won't be any easier.
The Panthers failed to make much of an impact, once again, to their receiving corps. They did draft WR Kelvin Benjamin. But during throwing sessions in Charlotte, it was noted that Benjamin "struggles on routes" that force him to come back to the ball and "gets out of cuts slower than most receivers." Benjamin is bound to have a rough rookie season if he can't pick up where he left off early in the spring.
Despite this and the fact that the Panthers will field one of the worst passing games in the league, Newton should still be viewed as a borderline QB1 for the simple fact that he can make plays out of nothing. Newton's ADP is currently at the tail-end of the 5th round. If he wasn't able to rely on his legs to make plays, his value would be much lower. However, since he has averaged 677 rushing yards a year in his first 3 seasons, his arm and his legs will keep his value high. I can see another 700-750 rushing yards again in 2014 to make up for the lack of talent at receiver. Just don't overvalue him. The loss of WR Steve Smith will be felt.
If you're like me, you've done your best to stay away from the Panthers running game. RB DeAngelo Williams has lucked out the past 2 seasons due to RB Jonathan Stewart's injury woes, having appeared in just 15 games between 2012 and 2013. Williams wasn't able to capitalize, though, averaging just 790 yards in the same time span.
Because of this year's receivers, the Panthers could run and run A LOT. The only problem is this backfield is as full blown an RBBC as you can get. For now anyway.
Per their ADP, Williams is going in the 14th round. That's not too high or too low considering most feel Stewart is the more complete back of the 2. Stewart's value is all the way down to the middle of the 16th round. There is definitely value here. Owners always seem to view players by how they did last year and not what they can do this year. Not taking into account that players CAN bounce back can help other owners gain value at every position. In spring OTAs, Stewart reportedly showed great burst whenever he touched the ball. If health can stay on Stewart's side, he should be the better of the 2 backs and has the best chance at reaching 1,000 rushing yards. With that said, continue to view both of these guys as RB3's. I can see a hot-hand situation brewing. Lets just hope Stewart is the one on the hot streak.
While I hate bashing on any position on any team, I can't help but feel disdain for what the Panthers front office has continued to do, or should I say not do, to make this receiving corps better than it is. For years, WR Steve Smith had to carry the load. Amazingly, he was able to do it without much help from other receivers who have come and gone.
This position has received a whole new makeover with Smith in Baltimore and WR Brandon LaFell found a sweet new gig playing for the Patriots. The losses force WR Kelvin Benjamin in the starting role, but it's hard to see much value here with the statements I made above. Benjamin won't crack 1,000 receiving yards, but he could be a significant asset at the goal line due to his 6'5/240 frame. I usually never recommend rookie receivers being drafted in redraft leagues. But if you feel like taking him, save him for the mid-to-later rounds once you have 2-3 strong receivers already on your roster.
Past Benjamin is a band of misfits. Jerricho Cotchery, Tiquan Underwood and Jason Avant. Do any of these players have much relevance? Cotchery hasn't been in the limelight since his days with the Jets. Underwood is bench material. Avant was good for a game or two in Philly, but added no athleticism while manning the slot. I won't bother saying anything about these guys fantasy wise. STAY AWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The saving grace in all this is TE Greg Olsen. With 73 catches and 816 yards last season, I dare say Olsen might top both those numbers as the team's best receiver currently. The problem Olsen has lacked is his consistency (like so many other tight ends from last year), but it's hard not adding him to the lower-half of the TE1 bin. Especially with the lack of talent surrounding him. This year could be the year Olsen flirts with 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career. He's been under 200 yards short the last 2 seasons. A couple more scores would be icing on the cake.