I recently appeared on RotoViz Radio: A Football Podcast to discuss the NFC South with Matthew Freedman and share how I see things shaking out this year. The fantastic apps here at RotoViz like the Best Ball ADP App and the Cheat Sheet Calculator are powered by the projections of RotoViz contributors. If you want to take a look at the Atlanta Falcons, here you go. Here’s my updated fantasy football projection rundown for Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.
Cam Newton comes back healthy for the 2015 season, but he just lost Kelvin Benjamin for the year. Where he was supposed to gain another big body target in Devin Funchess, he now gets a replacement. How does the Benjamin injury impact this offense? For the first time in a long time, Jonathan Stewart will start the season healthy, but what can we expect from him with the receiving game taking a hit?
Even with Stewart healthy, Newton should pick up where he left off and continue pulling down a large portion of the rushing production in this offense. Newton accounted for 28 percent of the team rushing his first two seasons in the league, followed by 23 percent and then 25 percent. My take is the Panthers will now likely be compelled to let him run. I have him taking down 25 percent of the running game this year. He has dipped below this level in only one of his past four seasons. If he gets 24 percent, he drops to the seventh best QB this year.
As Fantasy Douche mentioned on Twitter, “If you think Cam is going to run a lot, draft him. If you don’t think he will run a lot, don’t draft him.” I don’t think they have a choice. Regardless of the Benjamin loss, I was targeting Newton this year at his price prior to the injury, and I’m still targeting him at his price since the injury. Justin Winn found that Newton’s rushing touchdown production was likely hampered by his injury last year and expects more rushing to come. The Benjamin injury isn’t taking this projection down.
Kelvin Benjamin should start the year as the WR1 for this team. Well shit. So much for that. Benjamin was coming off the board as the 17th receiver before he went down, and that is the range we can probably expect Funchess to land at so long as he gets on the field. I started the off season pretty high on Funchess. I expect Funchess to get more involved in this offense and to take on a larger portion of targets. It’s hard to for me to take a strong stand on him at this point considering he hasn’t suited up much.
Given the lack of talent on this depth chart, I’m still going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Ask me again in a week. RotoViz Staff gave us three solid reasons why Funchess is the receiver to own in Carolina. Keep in mind, though, he has soured on Funchess as of late because of his limited practice reps. At this price range, the safe play is to simply look elsewhere.
We can expect much of the same Greg Olsen this year as a safe and consistent fantasy producer. Since the Funchess injury, he’s coming off the board as the number four tight end — up one spot. I have him projected as the sixth best for the year. At this point he has a high and safe floor, but it’s hard to give him more than 24 percent of the target share. I don’t have a problem with anyone drafting him given his safety at a tough position to clamp down, but I’ve been looking for TEs later. If we get closer to Week 1 and Funchess hasn’t move up the depth chart, then I’d be okay with Olsen at this price. He should still average around eight yards per target to go along with his consistent 67 percent catch rate. Taking his reTDRT down from his consistent 0.05 to say a 0.045 takes away a TD and makes him the seventh best TE. Take him down to 0.04 and he still nets four plus TDs. He seems a lock for a finish in the TE4-TE6 range. He’s so consistent that Justin Winn thinks he’s a smarter draft choice than Travis Kelce.
You don’t need me to tell you that Jonathan Stewart is a good bet to get injured this year. Sports Injury Predictor has him as a high risk, at 67 percent chance to get injured. Here’s to hoping any injury is minimal. Stewart is coming off the board as the 23rd running back. I have him projected as the 14th best running back. I had him projected a little higher prior to the Benjamin injury, but my guess is the run game loses a little efficiency. Even if you take away a couple games for injury, Stewart is still a bargain at this current price. His injury status is more than baked into his ADP, and I’m not shying away from Stewart this year. Anthony Amico made his case for Stewart as a value here.
I am not buying into Cameron Artis-Payne in redraft this year. I did draft him in a couple dynasty leagues really late purely for trade bait. I’d expect him to be able to pull in at least a third round rookie pick if he gets the chance to start. When/if Stewart does go down, however, I don’t see Artis-Payne as a guy that will take over all the work. I’d expect him to have to share with Mike Tolbert and forfeit any red zone looks as well.
Be sure to play around with your own projections in the Projection Machine, and I’ll cover the rest of the NFC South soon.