Fantasy Football Booms/Busts 2018: The Carolina Panthers

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/30121/" data-ylk="slk:Christian McCaffrey">Christian McCaffrey</a> cracked the RB top-15 last year in .5 PPR leagues. Can he repeat the feat with <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/26878/" data-ylk="slk:C.J. Anderson">C.J. Anderson</a> on roster? (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Christian McCaffrey cracked the RB top-15 last year in .5 PPR leagues. Can he repeat the feat with C.J. Anderson on roster? (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

As the mercury rises and we inch closer to the open of training camps, our resident fantasy football sickos, Brad Evans and Liz Loza, will profile their favorite booms/busts of every NFL team. Today’s topic: The Prowling Panthers.

Among first-year Panthers, who BOOMS loudest at their ADP: C.J. Anderson (92.0, RB40) or DJ Moore (148.7, WR59)?

Brad – ANDERSON. There are few professions in this world people say you’re “washed up” at 27 years old. We’re no longer living in the Middle Ages for crying out loud, a time period when pestilence, child birth or battle ax encounters ceased most lives by age 30. But some believe Anderson, acquired by the Panthers after Denver kicked him to the wayside, is cooked. I am not part of said group.

The rusher isn’t running on empty. His per game production sagged measurably last season, but there are several encouraging signs he still has plenty of petrol. Drilling down, he ranked top-15 in total evaded tackles (RB8), total runs of 15-plus yards (RB13) and yards created (RB11) last year. His 2.8 yards after contact per attempt according to Pro Football Focus also wasn’t too shabby (RB17). Yes, he ranked RB32 in run success rate (h/t Sharp Football Stats), but the Broncos’ QB play was atrocious.

As a Panther, Anderson will work in lock step with Christian McCaffrey. Reports of Mister Christian approaching 200 ground attempts is ludicrous. His dance partner is an upgrade over Jonathan Stewart who received close to 47 percent of the opportunity share in 2017 (13.2 carries per game). Approximately 14-15 touches per contest for CJA feels right. In an improved offensive environment and hungry to prove his mettle on a one-year deal, he’s a sparkling mid-round gem capable of 850-950 combined yards with 7-8 TDs.

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Liz – C.J. ANDERSON. Not the flashy choice, but a solid one. Yes, Moore offers oodles of upside – from his measurables to the praise he received at OTAs – but he’s still a rookie with a limited route tree, fighting for targets on a run-first operation.

Anderson, on the other hand, is coming off of a 1,000-yard season. At 27-years-old, the former Bronco has plenty left in the tank, as evidenced by his juke rate (28.6%). Last year Anderson also ripped off nine breakaway runs (#13). Expect that number to increase, as he’ll be trading Trevor Siemian/Brock Osweiler/Paxton Lynch for the ultra-mobile Cam Newton, which should open up holes and provide the Cal product with extra running room.

Replacing Jonathan Stewart, Anderson is likely to average upwards of 13 totes per contest. Assuming he stays healthy (which is distinctly possible given a reduced workload) and that he’s slightly more efficient than Stewart was in his age 30-season, I’d expect Anderson to close out 2018 in the RB25-RB30 range.

Bigger bust candidate: Devin Funchess (63.6, WR27), Christian McCaffrey (17.4, RB11) or Greg Olsen (68.7, TE6)?

Liz – CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY. Before anyone gets it twisted, this is NOT a knock on McCaffrey’s talent. This is a knock against paying peak value for a player. It’s great that CMC has added five pounds of muscle, but that doesn’t make him a grinder. I get that Ron Rivera is touting the former Cardinal’s ability to “run a lot more,” but that sounds like a head coach trying to make his offense sound less predictable.

The RB11 overall in half-point PPR formats last year, McCaffrey was the most targeted RB in the league. He also hauled in the third most receptions at 80 catches on the season. How much better can he realistically do? An increase in totes is the only realistic place for him to significantly up his production. Maybe he averages 10 carries per game – and stays healthy in the process – but that’s not a gamble that I’m willing to take in the first round. Not when perennial producers like Devonta Freeman and Jordan Howard are still on the board.

Brad – CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY. To say its been an eventful offseason for Run CMC would be a gross understatement. He’s not only packed on the pounds in anticipation of shouldering more work, the Castle Rock, Col. native also helped save a life. Quite the story. 

For fantasy purposes, many believe the rusher’s heroism will carry over into the box score. Some have brazenly said he’ll resemble LaDainian Tomlinson in Norv Turner’s offense. Umm … that’s crazy talk. He may don a cape in harrowing situations away from the field, but when it comes to fantasy football, McCaffrey won’t be a savior.

On just over 48 percent of the opportunity share a season ago, the rusher delivered on the rookie hype. He averaged 5.5 yards per touch (RB7), totaled 80 receptions (RB3) and notched the 15th-most valuable RB line in .5 PPR. But his sterling surface numbers cloaked underlying flaws. He ran weakly between the tackles (2.1 YAC/att, RB62) and, shockingly, finished RB36 in tackles avoided per attempt. For a RB many describe as evasive, he forced a missed tackle on a pedestrian 17.2 percent of his touches. Also successful on just 44 percent of his rush attempts (h/t Sharp Football Stats), tagging him inefficient is appropriate.

With C.J. Anderson in tow, it’s silly to buy into Ron Rivera’s declaration McCaffrey will approach 200 carries. The added poundage may help, but he isn’t the bulldozer Anderson, a major upgrade over Jonathan Stewart, is. He, like Jerick McKinnon, is an overpriced Round 2 pass-catching RB. Certifiable horses Dalvin Cook, Jordan Howard and LeSean McCoy are wiser targets at a nearly identical price point.

Is Cam Newton UNDERVALUED/OVERVALUED or PROPERLY VALUED at his 90.9 ADP (QB5)?

Brad – UNDERVALUED. If Sasquatch emerged from the backwoods of North Carolina and signed on to play tight end for the Panthers, Cam would find a way to overthrow him … repeatedly. Inaccuracy is the passer’s only downside. Over his past two campaigns, he ranked No. 32 or worse in overall completion percentage and red-zone completion percentage. He’s Blake Bortles with more productive legs.

However, due to his scoring duality, Newton remains a bargain buy at his Round 8 ADP in 12-team leagues. Since taking the league by storm in 2011, he finished QB4 or better five times. Norv Turner’s belief he can elevate the QB’s completion rate into the high-60s is a peyote driven hallucination, but an increase use of play-action and quick throws can’t hurt. Adding rookie D.J. Moore, a prolific short-to-intermediate weapon while at Maryland, only boosts Newton’s profile. He’s properly valued in QB standing, but a steal of a deal overall.

Liz – PROPERLY VALUED. Cam may not be a perfect NFL quarterback (accuracy/INTs), but he’s been a phenomenal pick for fans of the virtual game. A top-four FF producer in five of the last seven years, Newton’s rushing stats have continually buoyed his fantasy totals. While that might be hard to sustain, he’s done a solid job of staying mobile so far. Adding D.J. Moore and C.J. Anderson to the squad should only help Cam to further dominate. Heading into 2018, he’s the Yahoo Fantasy consensus QB5.

Bring the blitz on Twitter. Follow Brad (@YahooNoise) and Liz (@LizLoza_FF).

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