The 2020 NFL Season is nearly upon us, and in anticipation of the new season we’ll be previewing the action team-by-team, using the draft order from last season. The previews will kick off with the Bengals and run right through the reigning champion Chiefs. Come back each day to check out your favorite team. All ADP and Rankings reflect PPR scoring. 2020 Projections are based on a 12-team league (i.e. WR1 (Top 12), WR2 (13-24), WR3 (25-36)).
The Panthers began the 2019 season with long-time head coach and starting quarterback Cam Newton. After two games, it was clear Newton wasn’t healthy enough to play, and he didn’t return all season. Rivera was let go before the season ended, too, and the Panthers finished 5-11, last place in the NFC South and looking to go in a new direction.
That direction came early in the off-season, as the Panthers hired Matt Rhule as the new head coach. He quickly added former LSU offensive coordinator Joe Brady, and together they’re looking to turn around the Panthers in a hurry. This season will be a big step toward that new direction.
The biggest change following Rhule’s hiring was finding the right quarterback to guide the team. The Panthers released Newton, who has now signed with the Patriots. But before that, they went and signed Teddy Bridgewater, who spent the past couple seasons with the New Orleans Saints. Bridgewater started five games in place of an injured Drew Brees in 2019, going 5-0. He threw for 1,384 yards and nine TDs with just two INTs. That earned him a three-year, $63 million deal. And the Panthers dealt Kyle Allen to Washington, leaving just former XFL star P.J. Walker and Will Grier as backups. This is Bridgewater’s team, and he’ll have a chance to lead the attack.
While the Panthers used all their draft picks to re-build the defense, the team did add some offensive players in free agency. To bolster the receiving corps, the team nabbed Robby Anderson, formerly of the Jets. Anderson had 207 receptions for 3,059 yards and 20 TDs in four years with the Jets. He’ll be competing with Curtis Samuel for targets. The team also added veteran receivers Keith Kirkwood, Pharoh Cooper and Seth Roberts, as well as TE Seth Devalve.
Do you believe in Bridgewater? That’s the question that matters for fantasy. If you think he can succeed, he’s a good QB2. I’m not sold and think he’s more of a QB3. If you believe in the system, he’s worth a swing. There’s no question when it comes to running back, as Christian McCaffrey was by far and away the best RB in football in 2019. He had 1,387 rush yards and 15 TDs, catching 116 passes for 1,005 yards and four TDs. He’s easily a Top 3 RB and should be drafted as the first overall player. If you draft him, try to grab Reggie Bonafon late as a handcuff.
Among receivers, the best is D.J. Moore. Moore caught 87 for 1,175 yards and four TDs in 2019, good enough to be WR16. I think he has Top 12 potential, and like him as a WR1 in 2020. Behind him are Samuel and Anderson, both of who figure to be involved. It’s hard to say who will have the most value, so right now I have Samuel as a high end WR4 and Anderson as a WR5. It wouldn’t surprise me if one returns better value, but it’s hard to say which at this point. Tight end is another question. Ian Thomas gets his chance to be the man after Greg Olsen left for Seattle this off-season. Thomas has talent, but I am banking on him more as a TE2 at this point.
Rhule has a long-term deal and was brought in to build a new structure and a new culture. That takes time. I’m not sold on Bridgewater as the answer, either. If he is, the Panthers could be a challenging out. They’re also in a tough division. I think it will take another season or two before Rhule gets this team back in the playoff hunt.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.