Despite trading away the team’s number 1 wide receiver
mid-season, Cam Newton reclaimed his spot within the top 5 fantasy
quarterbacks. After finishing as the QB15 in 2016, Newton had
an ADP of QB9 according to Fantasy Football Calculator and needless
to say, he drastically outperformed his draft position. He was
consistently startable without many bust weeks as the chart below
As is typically the case for Newton, he added a significant amount
of value with his legs. His 139 carries was the most for any season
of his career. He led all QBs with 754 yards rushing, by a margin
of 168 yards, and he tied for the lead in touchdowns with 6. Newton
has never been an efficient passer – the last time he completed
more than 60 percent of his passes was in 2013 – and outside
of his outlier year in 2015, he hasn’t thrown more than
25 TDs in a season. Yet, he continues to be a fantasy asset thanks
to his ability around the goaline (22 rush TDs the last three
seasons). His ability on the ground keeps him in the QB1 conversation.
Christian McCaffrey’s finish as the RB16 is somewhat impressive
when you consider he was 39th among RBs in carries and the third
in rushing attempts on his own team. McCaffrey had six weeks with
at least 10 fantasy points, but he also had three weeks under
5 points. Because of his lack of consistent rush attempts, his
scoring was almost completely tied to his receiving workload and
after leading all running backs in targets and his role defined,
that value is likely sustainable.
One of the obstacles for McCaffrey was Jonathan Stewart who handled
198 carries in his 15 games. And much to the delight of McCaffrey
fans, he left the team in the offseason, but much to the dismay
of McCaffrey fans, the team replaced him with a more capable,
C.J. Anderson, who will almost certainly take a large portion
of the early-down work.
McCaffrey’s value changes noticeably by scoring style.
In standard scoring leagues, he’s a mid-RB2 who you can
expect 9 to 10 points from each week. In PPR, he’s a low-end
RB1, RB9 in 2017, with a higher ceiling because of his 7 targets
per week. His price is probably best suited as the RB15 and if
he improves as a runner and/or increases his share of the carries,
he’ll likely outperform his ADP.
With the exit of Jonathan Stewart in the off-season, there was
a void at the RB position in Carolina, particularly in the early
downs and Anderson was quickly added to the roster once he was
made available. Anderson has been considered as disappointment
to fantasy owners ever since his breakout campaign of 2014, but
he’s coming off of a 1,000-yard season with a 4.1 yards
per carry average.
Anderson appears to be a value at the RB position with his new
team. Although he lacks some of the upside, he’d poised
to inherit a sizeable portion of Stewart’s 200 carries.
Stewart finished as the RB33 in standard scoring leagues despite
rushing for just 3.4 yards per carry and only handling 15 targets.
Anderson is currently being drafted as the RB40, according to
Fantasy Football Calculator, and if he can maintain an average
near 4 yards per carry, he should be positioned well to outperform
his draft position. Anderson should be a target for drafters who
start WR heavy in standard scoring leagues.
Cameron Artis-Payne is clearly the third back behind McCaffrey
and Anderson and would need an injury to have a chance at any
significant fantasy value, but the biggest problem for Artis-Payne
is that one injury may not earn him a significant workload. He’s
a player without much upside and can comfortably be left on the
waivers barring an injury and even with one injury, he’s
likely just a handcuff.
Funchess’ breakout as the top wide receiver in Carolina
felt like a long-time coming despite the fact that 2017 was just
his third season. Since arriving from Michigan, Funchess seemed
to be the most talented WR on the depth chart and his ceiling
remained enticing in spite of his limited usage. And then the
team “finally” moved on from Kelvin Benjamin and his
value exploded. After scoring more than 10 fantasy points twice
in the first nine weeks, he scored in double digits 5 of the final
7 weeks in 2017.
With the incoming first round WR pick (D.J. Moore) and return
of 2017’s second round selection (Curtis Samuel), there’s additional
competition for targets that could hinder Funchess’ scoring. But
even with the extra competition, he is the favorite to lead the
team in targets and with his size, he should be plenty of redzone
usage. His yardage efficiency (13.3 ypc) doesn’t jump off the
page which could make him slightly touchdown dependent. His ADP
hovers around WR31 and as a WR3, he’ll have value for fantasy
D.J. Moore was the first wide receiver taken in the NFL Draft
which was a slight surprise, but his college production and athletic
profile would indicate he was worth a first round pick. In his
final season, Moore accounted for more than 50 percent of both
his team’s receiving yards and touchdowns. Making his 1033
yards more impressive, he played much of the season with third
and fourth string quarterbacks. That alone had some scouts raving
about his potential, but Moore made his mark at the combine and
solidified himself as a first round caliber player with a strong
Funchess is the early favorite to be the team’s top wide
receiver, but given his draft capital, Moore will have a chance
to earn a heavy workload. In redraft leagues, Moore has value
as a lottery ticket play in the later rounds, but the excitement
around him could hurt his value. Currently the WR47, Moore would
be a solid bench option to stash and see if he can get consistent
targets, but if he climbs into the low-40 range, he’ll be
Torrey Smith failed to stretch the field and convert targets
into fantasy points in his normal manner in 2017. His 11.4 yards
per reception last season was the lowest of his career. He only
converted 53 percent of his targets into receptions; which is
in line with his career efficiency, but on only 60 targets, his
scoring potential was seriously limited. Leaving Philadelphia’s
crowded offense will help, but his targets aren’t likely
to exceed his 2017 total. Smith will always have big play potential,
but he will be boom-bust unless he becomes the WR2 in the offense.
Smith is currently undrafted in mock drafts and he’s probably
best-suited as a flex fill-in in premium matchups.
Samuel only played in eight games in 2017 and never cracked 5
fantasy points in a week, but he’s a former 2nd round draft
selection so the team isn’t likely to give up on him yet.
Samuel is a versatile player who could see time lined up on the
outside, in the slot, or potentially coming out of the backfield.
After breaking a bone in his ankle last season, Samuel is progressing
towards being 100 percent by training camp. However, he’s
at best fifth in line for targets making him a waiver player to
keep an eye on in 2018. If he can earn consistent playing time,
his athletic profile aligns well with a Tavon Austin-type player
who could find creative ways to touch the ball.
Olsen’s Week 3 injury derailed any chance for a productive
season. His return from the broken foot likely hurt fantasy owners
because he never fully recovered as a fantasy asset, but his ability
to play is a positive for 2018. Olsen has been the safety blanket
option for Cam Newton and his return should bring production.
Some owners may feel burned by Olsen after using an early selection
on the tight end, but injury shouldn’t be a major concern.
2017 was with first time he’s missed a game since his 2007
rookie year. Olsen’s target volume makes him one of the
safer options at a thin position and if he’s passed on for
riskier options, he’s a major value. Because of his proven
production, his should be considered after the “big three”
at the position (Gonk, Kelce, Ertz) and if he slips in favor of
players like Jimmy Graham or Evan Engram, he could be a strong
value for drafters.