Falling just short of collecting their first Lombardi Trophy in franchise history, the Carolina Panthers were a firestorm of fantasy fun last season. Cam Newton, Greg Olsen and Jonathan Stewart were starting lineup mainstays. Ted Ginn Jr. and Devin Funchess also surprised. In this edition of ‘The Stance,’ Brad Evans and Brandon Funston feast on some vinegar-based Carolina bbq.
Coming off a career year, Jonathan Stewart, in some circles, isn’t getting the love he deserves. At his 77.2 (RB28) ADP. Is the veteran plow OVERVALUED, UNDERVALUED or PROPERLY VALUED?
Brandon – UNDERVALUED. I get that J-Stew is going to get undercut at the goal line often by Cam Newton, who has 43 rushing TDs in his five seasons in the league, but how can we justify him going 28th at RB when he finished 16th at the position in fantasy points last season despite missing three games. He was No. 7 at the position in carries, No. 8 in rushing yards and No. 11 in rushing TDs. He’s the stand-alone featured back for a team that will run often and put plenty of points on the board. He needs to be closer to the top 20 at the RB position than the top 30.
Brad – PROPERLY VALUED. The adoration that exists toward Stewart is flat out bizarre. He’s a brittle back (ZERO full seasons played since 2011) on a team with the Stripe of goal-line Gremlins (Cam Newton) who offers little value in the pass game. In his eight-year career he’s finished inside the RB top-15 only once. Full disclosure, he did evade the fifth-most tackles of any RB last year and notched a laudable 76.1 rush yards per game, but, nearing 30-years-old, he’s a perpetual sucker bet.
The RB3 price tag is appropriate. He’s a useful bench back who should be plugged in when the matchup is favorable. However, give me Melvin Gordon, Rashad Jennings or Chris Ivory, rushers going some 1-3 rounds after J-Stew, instead.
Cam Newton continues to grow and mature as a passer, indicative in the advancements he made in several categories last season. TRUE or FALSE: Newton defends his No. 1 QB spot vigorously and reclaims his rightful throne as fantasy’s most feared passer.
Brandon – TRUE. I mentioned his rushing TDs above (43 in five seasons), and the expected 8-10 rushing TDs makes such a huge fantasy impact, especially when you add it to the 35 TD passes he tallied last season. And with towering red zone options in Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess and Greg Olsen, it’s easy to envision another 30-something TD pass campaign. There was a 3.2-point gap between Newton and the next best QB in fantasy points per game last season, so even with a little numbers regression, Newton is going to be tough to beat.
Brad – TRUE. Newton was not only the most feared running quarterback in the league, he also developed into respectable passer. His improvements in the area explain why he bested fantasy No. 2 QB, Tom Brady, by 3.2 points per game, an impressive gap. Last year, he saw marked increases in yards per attempt (7.8), TD percentage (7.1) and completion percentage (59.8) while also shaving his interception rate. What’s nutty? That’s properly just the tip of the iceberg for the 27-year-old. Toss in Benjamin’s return and Funchess’ pronounced growth, and he may actually best 2015’s 4,473 combined yards and 45 total touchdowns.
Throughout the summer the Kelvin Benjamin vs. Devin Funchess debate has really heated up. Keeping ADP values in mind (KB: 37.2, WR22; DF: 119.1, WR54), which Panthers receiver is the sager choice?
Brandon –FUNCHESS. I don’t really care for the question because I think it paints Benjamin in a negative light by not choosing him when, in fact, I think he’s somewhat fairly valued as the No. 22 WR – I have been waffling him around in my rankings between 25-29. But since I have Funchess as a borderline top 40 WR, I guess that makes him the better value. That said, I would rather own Benjamin, who posted nine touchdowns and 1,008 receiving yards as a rookie. He returns from his ACL injury to a QB (Newton) who has made big strides as a passer while Benjamin was out.
Brad – FUNCHESS, by the length of his 6-foot-4 frame. The ADP disparity alone says the Michigan product is the hands down winner.
With Benjamin tied to an oxygen tank due to poor conditioning, Funchess has reportedly picked up the slack, enhanced his game and gained the confidence of Cam and the coaching staff. Fanatics witnessed his potential over the second half last year. From Week 9 on, Funchess sharpened his routes, trimmed the drops and put together a 24-383-5 line, the 32nd-best WR yield over that stretch. In what will be a socialist offense, Carolina’s camp MVP, who will see time not only outside but also in the slot, may sail past KB with ease. If the stars align, he could top out in the 70-1050-8 range.