QB Cam Newton (Carolina)
Newton was noticeably better in the 2nd half of last season, with 1964 passing yards, 13 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions, all while rushing for 394 yards and 4 touchdowns. Heading into his 3rd season in the league, it’s very possible he’s turned a corner permanently. There’s immense upside here.
Projection: 4000 passing yards, 25 passing touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 750 rushing yards, 8 touchdowns (359 pts standard, 409 pts 6 pt td leagues)
RB DeAngelo Williams (Carolina)
8/20/13: With Stewart possibly starting the season on the PUP, Williams gets a stock up. He had 173 carries last season with Stewart missing time and could see even more this season as the Panthers want to have a little bit more of a traditional running game. Cam Newton and goal line back Mike Tolbert will still steal a bunch of touchdowns and Newton is still a good bet to take off a bunch of times on his own though and Williams just isn’t that talented anymore.
Williams did average 4.3 yards per carry on 173 carries last year, but only because of a random 210 yard/21 carry performance in week 17 against a laughable New Orleans defense. Before that, he was averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. Going into his age 30 season this year, things aren’t going to get better.
Projection: 180 carries for 720 rushing yards 6 total touchdowns 18 catches for 130 receiving yards (121 pts standard, 139 pts PPR)
RB Jonathan Stewart (Carolina)
8/20/13: Stewart is the more talented of Carolina’s two backs, but he can’t stay healthy. After missing 7 games with injury last season, Stewart is a candidate to start the season on the PUP, which would cost him the first 6 weeks of the season, this according to Head Coach Ron Rivera. Stewart had 93 carries in 9 games last year. He might not exceed that by much this season.
Injuries limited Stewart to just 3.6 yards per carry and 93 carries, but he’s only 26 and had only missed 2 games in the prior 4 years, when he averaged 4.8 yards per carry. Provided he’s healthy, he should be able to be a solid starting running back this season and keep the aging DeAngelo Williams off the field as much as possible.
Projection: 100 carries for 440 rushing yards 4 total touchdowns 15 catches for 100 receiving yards (84 pts standard, 99 pts PPR)
RB Mike Tolbert (Carolina)
Tolbert rushed for 3.4 yards per carry on 54 carries while scoring 7 touchdowns as a short yardage back, which is impressive considering his role. He should be able to do the same again in 2013. Tolbert also is a good pass catcher, leading Carolina backs with 27 catches and serving essentially as a move tight end in certain situations.
Projection: 60 carries for 210 rushing yards 5 total touchdowns 30 catches for 270 yards (78 pts standard, 108 pts PPR)
WR Steve Smith (Carolina)
Steve Smith remains the #1 receiver, catching 73 passes for 1174 yards and 4 touchdowns, but it’s unclear how much longer he can do that for, as he’s going into his age 34 season. Over the next 2-4 years, Smith can be expected to go from top flight receiver to complementary player to gone. That’s just what happens to receivers around this age. Even the average top-20 receiver (in terms of yardage all-time) has his last 1000 yard season at age 34-35, averages 48 catches for 594 yards and 3 touchdowns for 2 more seasons after age 34-35, and is done playing by age 36-37.
Projection: 62 catches for 1020 receiving yards 5 touchdowns (132 pts standard, 194 pts PPR)
WR Brandon LaFell (Carolina)
Their other starting receiver is Brandon LaFell, a marginal pass catcher. He’s a borderline starting receiver at best though and will never be a long term #1 wide receiver. He could see career high numbers, though that wouldn’t be saying a lot.
Projection: 50 catches for 750 receiving yards 5 touchdowns (105 pts standard, 155 pts PPR)
TE Greg Olsen (Carolina)
Greg Olsen was a 1st round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft and finally came into his own last season, catching a career high 69 passes for a career high 843 yards and 5 touchdowns, serving as a very good secondary receiver for Cam Newton, including 35 catches for 448 yards and 4 touchdowns in the 2nd half of the season. With Smith expected to decline a little and Newton expected to improve, Olsen could even surpass last year’s numbers.
Projection: 71 catches for 880 receiving yards 8 touchdowns (136 pts standard, 207 pts PPR)