2022 NFC South Preview: Fantasy Football Outlook, Sleepers, and Busts

Matt Bevins breaks down the NFC South from a fantasy football perspective.

2021 Review

 

Points per Game 17.88 29th
Offensive Snaps 1106
2021 Record 5-12 27th
2022 Vegas Win Projection 6 T-28th

 

The Carolina Panthers can’t seem to catch a break lately. The team had arguably the best player in the league in Christian McCaffrey, and a dash and burst guy in Chubba Hubbard just in case the going got tough. McCaffrey however has been nothing if not injury-prone (a phrase I personally hate to use), as per DraftSharks.com, he has faced 5 separate injuries in his pro career, and is seen as a liability. The team has wide receivers that have outwardly said they were relieved to get a new quarterback in with Baker Mayfield, due to their lack of faith in Sam Darnold. There are no more riverboats in Carolina, and I’m not quite sure how, but the Panthers may just face a battle for the worst team in the NFC South.

 

Coaching:

Matt Rhule took over the job once Riverboat Ron left for a playdate with the Washington Redskins, and so far it already seems like the honeymoon phase may be over. A former Baylor and Temple coach, Rhule will look to draw upon some new faces on their team to help push above the previous 5-win season. Ben McAdoo will take over as the current offensive coordinator, after spending the previous 2 years in assistant roles with Green Bay and Jacksonville. Phil Snow is the leader of the defense and came along with Rhule out of Baylor, as part of his coaching tree. Chris Tabor rounds out the noteworthy coaches as the special team’s coach and one who has spent 25 years overall in professional coaching roles.

 

On-Field Personnel:

The Panthers have a lot to unpack this season, as the team was one that seemed to be one of the most disheartened bottom-of-the-pile teams. Rhule came in with glowing reviews and was unable to unlock anything within Sam Darnold. Throughout the offseason, there was worry that the team may just end up having to give another start year to Darnold due to sheer lack of options, but they waited till the very end of the postseason to take Baker Mayfield off the Browns and their court case-ridden front office. Baker Mayfield will be given some wide receiving help that can ultimately be unlocked despite underachieving standards, having D.J. MooreRobbie Anderson, and Terrace Marshall to get the ball out to. Moore and Anderson have had numerous quality pro output seasons, but Marshall came out of college with a  little bit of hype and will look to draw upon this.

The true key to the whole offense unlocking will be just how healthy Christian McCaffrey is, and how long he will indeed stay healthy. Going into his fifth pro season, he’s had as many worrisome injuries, and while his college career wasn’t littered with them, the league and the Panthers would be lying if they didn’t admit it was a worrisome endeavor.

 

Passing Game

 

Passing Yards per Game 190.5 29th
Passing Touchdowns per Game 0.8 31st
Pass Attempts per Game 35.2 14th

 

The Panthers spent a lot of time passing. Well, at least enough, but there wasn’t much to be said for where it got them. They ended up bottom four in yards per game, and second worst in passing touchdowns, so it’s no wonder that Robbie Anderson threw up some eye emojis at the thought of getting Baker Mayfield over. The worries go from this:

 

 

to this:

 

 

Baker has had an unceremonious exit from Cleveland, as the team was looking to basically shed him and his contract for a bit, but this is just less than two years removed from the clip above. D.J. Moore has been an absolute monster in spurts before, and now has a good quarterback throwing his way. Robby Anderson has also had some quality seasons receiving, but it all comes down to the expectation that someone will be able to reach them in the air often, and with gusto. Darnold unfortunately has had plenty of time to try and build up his resume and he’s sorely left it lacking.

 

Running Game

 

Rushing Yards Per Game 108.4 20th
Rushing Touchdowns Per Game 1.0 13th
Rushing Attempts Per Game 26.8 14th

 

The Carolina Panthers have a lot to sort out this season in regard to their running game situation. McCaffrey will start into a four-year contract worth just north of 64 million dollars, which depending on how healthy he remains could be an absolute steal or an absolute bust. McCaffrey will come into the season at just 26 years old, and the quickest to ever reach 3,000 yards receiving and 3,000 yards rushing, so the man can clearly carry an offense on his own. What will also help his cause is the fact that backup Chubba Hubbard has shown due to time off from McCaffrey that he is also reliable at times, finishing last season with a rather low 3.6 yards per carryt, but getting over the 600-yard mark on the season as a rookie with an unexpected role coming into the season.  The Panthers offensive line per ProFootballFocus is ranked at 31st overall, and is very clearly not a huge help to the running game, showcasing just how much of a big deal McCaffrey staying healthy can be.

 

Sleeper

 

D.J. Moore, WR

D.J. Moore hasn’t yet got his roses. And with his wide receiver average draft position currently being around 22, I’m willing to buy him a bouquet if he can at all live up to his potential. The 24th overall pick in the first round in 2018, Moore has had to play through a barrage of mediocre quarterbacking, all while eclipsing 1,000 yards receiving and 90 catches last year. So why is this man who at times has been closing in on a top 4 round wide receiver, now falling down almost to the mid-’20s with the playcalling and big arm possibility of Mayfield coming along to help him out? This may backfire, but I’m thinking there’s a chance that he may be worth a round or two higher than his value entails, and I will draft him as such.

 

Deep Sleeper

 

Robbie Anderson, WR

Robbie Anderson has been around the world of the NFL for a while and has been outspoken about his disdain for the quarterbacking he’s had for him in Carolina, and it seems the anger may have finally been listened to.  Moore will likely be the one who will be more consistently targeted and called upon to go deep in the playcalling tree most of the time, but Robbie Anderson is currently being valued in the mid-60 of all wide receivers, and this just seems downright ridiculous. Mayfield has had his bouts with consistency, but he is currently an upgrade from where the Panthers were, and the consistency of playmaking ability could be what really sets them apart. When in Cleveland, Mayfield was calling upon receivers with far less track record than Robbie most nights and was still making them valuable. I’d like to take that gamble again, and with him sitting behind such names as Van Jefferson and Jameson Williams, it seems it may not cost very much.

 

Bust Candidate

 

Christian McCaffrey, RB

I’m sorry to say this, as I really love this cat. He’s a great face for the game of football, he has swagger, and some of the most Charmin soft hands you’ll ever see, but as we discussed earlier, the inability to stay on the field is going to cap that value so, so much. Adding into the fact that the team has a shiny new car in the garage in Baker Mayfield, they’re going to want to test out just how fast that thing can go. This may lead to a role where McCaffrey is thrust into more consistent pass-catching, but that still leads to expected hard contact in the second and third levels. Moore will likely gain some more passing yardage, Robbie will have a consistent season, and Chubba may take another step towards a quality backfield handcuff, and all of this plus the five injuries in his pro career have me staying away from him. He’s still averaging out as the third-highest running back off the board, and that’s so rich for my blood that it hurts.

 

 

 

Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photography by Ken Murray, Roy K. Miller, William Howard & David Rosenblum / Icon Sportswire

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