The PYRO Fantasy Football Depth Chart is a rundown of where Team PYRO projects the fantasy production for each team at each position. It is NOT an attempt to inform you of the current starters for each team. For example, we are well aware that Brandon Manumaleuna is currently the starting TE for the Chicago Bears, but if you look at the Bears Team Page, we have Greg Olsen listed at TE. Why? We’re projecting that Greg Olsen will be the most Fantasy Football relevant TE for the Bears this season. Since Olsen will be the Bears leading FF point scorer at TE, it’s his name at the top of the TE column on our PYRO Fantasy Depth Chart.
The Panthers restructured the contracts of three veterans – center Ryan Kalil, running back Jonathan Stewart and linebacker Thomas Davis – in moves that created about $7.25 million in cap space.
Gettleman asked seven players to rework their deals last offseason after he was hired, including those of Kalil and Stewart.
Stewart, who has missed more than half of the past two seasons with injuries, had his base salary reduced from $1.5 million to $785,000, according to the NFLPA salary figures.
Pyro's take: J-Stew has restructured his contract once again, and once again the Panthers backfield will be a hot mess in 2014. Now that he has restructured his contract it will once again be a three headed monster in Carolina.
For years this has been the case with Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, and they will continue with their long term time share. The days of thinking J-Stew was worth anything are over.
Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Ron Rivera were noncommittal about the future of wide receiver Steve Smith, the franchise’s all-time receiving leader who will be 35 by the start of next season.
“Steve’s had a great career. He really has,” Gettleman said Thursday. “None of us are here forever. But that’s not to say – he’s part of the evaluation process. That’s just the way it is.”
Rivera was only slightly more definitive Friday when asked about Smith’s place in the Panthers’ plans.
“Steve is part of what we’re doing in going forward,” Rivera said. “How big of an impact he’s going to have for us, that’s to be determined as we start going through this draft process and through the free agency. So we’ll see.”
Pyro's take: If the Panthers want to take the next step in their progression, then Steve Smith cannot be their number one receiver. Stevie fists saw a major drop in production last season, with only 745 receiving yards.
The Panthers need to address the fact that Greg Olsen was their leading receiving last year, and it is clear that through either the draft or free agency they plan to address this issue.
Cam Newton must be thrilled to hear of the prospects of having some real options in the passing game. If the Panthers do add help, it will also only further help Cam Newton's fantasy outlook for 2014.
Newton took his game to a new level in 2013, establishing career bests with 24 touchdown passes, a 61.7-percent completion rate and a quarterback rating of 88.8. He also became the only player in NFL history to have 50 of more touchdown passes (64) and 25 or more rushing touchdowns (28) in any three-year span. It just happened to be his first three years.
For all the numbers, the most impressive one was Carolina's 12-4 record. Newton and the Panthers won six games his rookie year and seven his second year before becoming a playoff team in 2013. During the breakout season, Newton led four game-winning drives – twice as many as he directed his first two seasons.
As for the receiver spot, it should be an interesting offseason (as so often it is). Three of the team's top four wide receivers in terms of catches – Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn and Domenik Hixon – are all potential unrestricted free agents, and difficult decisions regarding trio will shape what the Panthers do next. In addition, Smith isn't getting any younger, though I'm not sure based on his level of play that he's getting any older.
Carolina has drafted 16 wide receivers over the 19 drafts in team history but has picked one in the first round just once. Outside of the three drafts in which the Panthers didn't have a first-round pick, their No. 28 overall spot this year is the latest first-round choice they've entered the draft with and is a spot that could lend itself to considering a rare first-round wide receiver.
Pyro's take: Newton had a fantastic season, leading the Panthers to a 12-4 record, although he did not have as many huge fantasy games in 2013. Part of the problem is that he does not have great weapons in the passing game.
Steve Smith is a great receiver and has been one of my favorites...for a long time. He just is not the dynamic player he was early in his career. The other receivers on the team have been inconsistent, which has hurt Cam's ability to post big passing games. The fact that Greg Olsen was the leading receiver on the Panthers last season should tell you all you need to know. If the Panthers get some real help for Cam at the receiver position, there is no doubt he will have a stronger campaign in 2014.
In an article I read yesterday, Steve Smith said his knee was at 71%, and felt good about being in the lineup this weekend. Well, after Thursday's practice it seems that number went down from 71 percent to 57 percent. A set-back happened.
Pyro's take: Old man Smith may not be able to play in Sunday's playoff matchup vs. the Niners, which obviously hurts the offense for the Panthers. But you know what hurts an offense more, is an over the hill player (he's the oldest starting wideout in the game today) trying to tough it out and play, only to be a non-factor because he was too banged up to perform.
If something miraculous doesn't happen soon, it's gonna be a rough road for the Panthers, cause Cam Newton is going to have to do it all by himself with his legs, and you can't run on this Niners defense with RBs.
Newton looking to prove Panthers offense is dynamic
"There's not a game that goes by, a practice that goes by, a meeting that goes by that we all don't think about how we have to do something for us to make the playoffs, quarterback Cam Newton said. "The reason why we play this game is to give ourselves a chance to make the playoffs.
"But each and every game, you have to be ready to put your best foot forward. We don't have the luxury of saying, ‘Well, we're going to beat the Jets,' and just look forward to New Orleans (next Sunday). This Jets team is a very good team. We have all our energy on this game."
Rivera believes the Panthers might have even a little extra energy given their last game, a 31-13 loss at New Orleans that snapped an eight-game winning streak.
"A lot of guys took it personal. They were really disappointed," Rivera said. "Guys kept saying, ‘Boy, I wish it was Sunday.' You want to get that taste out of your mouth, get back on the field and play your best."
Pyro's take: You can bet your bottom dollar that Cam Newton is one of the players that took the loss to the Saints personally and will take that out on the Jets.
Newton is a must start this week, as he should lead a Panther domination of the Jets. Cam knows he needs to bounce back and gear up the offense this week, so that his team is better prepared for the rematch with the Saints in week 16. Cam is going to make a lot of plays with his arm and legs in this game.
I asked Newton how it felt to finally go into December as a quarterback playing games that matter, like the one Sunday night at New Orleans that will be for the NFC South lead. He good-naturedly batted the question aside.
"Your question is great,' Newton said, "but your question is trying to make it a 'me' thing. We all wanted this. As a writer for The Charlotte Observer, writing about a 2-14 team is not going to get a lot of views. You know that and I know that. ... Yeah, it's great to be around this type of atmosphere. But to hell with it if we don't continue to keep going and keep challenging ourselves."
Newton has learned to trust his teammates during this 9-3 season. And while he hasn't stopped the "Superman" touchdown celebration or the first-down point, he is far quicker to credit teammates than he used to be. He doesn't necessarily believe that, but it's true.
"I hear it all the time," Newton acknowledged. "Maybe I just have the blinders on like one of those horses downtown that goes around carrying the couples. I'm just trying to stay focused. Even though we're having a great season, it could be better.
Pyro's take: This season has been about the maturity of Cam Newton, and that has translated into wins. Cam has also been helped by a very strong defense that has kept it close when Newton has not been at his best. Although, Newton is turning the corner as quarterback.
Cam has been very good in fantasy this season, although there are not many other Panthers that have been factors. That is in part due to the fact that Newton is spreading the ball all over the offense.
This week should be a good challenge for Newton as he faces the Saints on an "island" game for the lead in the division. The Saints are coming off a tough loss to the Seahawks, and will be looking to rebound at home. Cam will have to weather the Saints storm and be the major reason why the Panthers win or lose this game. Get him in your lineup this week.
Newton admitted Wednesday that he celebrated the Panthers’ victory over the Patriots on Monday night by going out, but it was merely to Waffle House, one of the few local establishments open late.
Newton said he “popped orange juices” but was careful not to eat anything that could alter his preparation for his next game, according to ESPN.
“I order scrambled eggs, hash browns and cheese grits in one bowl with a light waffle … extremely light waffle,” Newton said. “Ah, man, to die for.” Newton said he is “on a first-name basis” with the local Waffle House employees.
Pyro's take: The more I hear about Cam, the more I like this guy. I am not from the South, but when I am I love to get my Waffle House on. Waffle House needs to get an endorsement deal done. I want to see Newton's face on every Waffle House.
Superman needs to be sure he does not have a letdown game, after two big back-to-back wins over the 49ers and Patriots. Cam will be facing the Dolphins, who are currently 7th best against quarterbacks one the season, surrendering just 18.3 points a game.
11/21/13, 05:37 PM CST by Houdini
"It's been a growth period," Rivera said of his suddenly surging signal-caller. "He's learned so much – like I have – and he's grown a lot."
Over Newton's last 16 games (the equivalent of one regular season), he has thrown 26 touchdown passes while tossing just nine interceptions. In the 16 games before that, dating back to the middle of his rookie year, Newton threw 18 touchdown passes against 15 interceptions.
But the more notable number - one that Rivera shares in and one that has observers pronouncing that Newton has truly arrived - is the win-loss record. The Panthers are 10-6 over their last 16 games, a playoff-caliber kind of record.
Pyro's take: We have been seeing the growth of Newton in fantasy as well, but we have not seen the best, yet. Newton has a tough schedule coming up, and his accuracy is going to get put to the test.
Although, this is time where Cam is going to use his speed to set up his accuracy. I expect Superman to be in Candlestick this week, and he will be running, and throwing on the run with his new found accuracy. Cam needs to prove himself this week, which I like in fantasy.
LaFell good at blocking, but inconsistent in fantasy
“I get so teed off when I don’t get the ball that I want to hit somebody,” LaFell said. “Whatever play it is, I got to go block so I have to go take my frustrations out on whoever’s in front of me.”
Receivers’ blocks don’t make the stats sheet and, short of ones like Ginn’s and Smith’s on Sunday, they are rarely even talked about.
LaFell, however, takes pride in his blocking. The team’s No. 2 wide receiver learned in his college days at Louisiana State that if he wanted to get on the field as a rookie playing for a big-time national program, he needed to do more than just catch passes.
“He is our best blocking wide receiver, and a lot of his blocks are made downfield,” Rivera said. “When you see him block downfield, you know he’s rolling.”
Pyro's take: LaFell has been a great blocker, according to Ron Rivera, but he has been inconsistent in fantasy. Part of the reason for the inconsistency is poor play from Cam Newton.
Newton has only thrown for better than 55% completion percentage in 2 of 5 games this season. That type of play from your quarterback will lead to poor play in fantasy from his wide receivers.
LaFell has failed to take the next step in his career, but really whose fault is it? If you own LaFell he will be a risk/reward play the rest of the season.
Rivera said a few days of rest for tight end Greg Olsen is just what he needed. The tight end injured his foot during the Arizona game and missed practice earlier in the week but took all his necessary reps on Friday and is probable for Sunday.
Pyro's take: It was a little worrisome earlier in the week when Olsen was sporting the walking boot, but he looks like he will be just fine for the game this week versus the Vikings, and he is a good start this week.
Greg Olsen in walking boot, but expects to play Sunday
Panthers tight end Greg Olsen's injury looks worse than it actually is.
Olsen has been walking around this week with a protective boot on his left foot -- even wearing it to Wednesday's practice, which he did not participate in.
But Olsen expects to increase his activity level at Thursday's practice, and plans to play in Sunday's game at Minnesota. Olsen said he injured his left foot during the Week 5 loss at Arizona, but did not indicate how it happened or the extent of it.
"It's all right. I'll be fine. It's more precautionary. I should be able to do some more stuff tomorrow," Olsen said Wednesday. "I don't expect to miss any time."
Pyro's take: Olsen has been productive this season with 21 catches for 273 yards and touchdown in 4 games. Olsen had 5 catches for 79 yards in the first half last week before sustaining the injury, which are the statistics he finished the game with. Olsen says he will be ready for this weeks game against the Vikings, and that would be good as he could be in store for a lot of yards, as the Vikings have struggled to cover the tight end this season.
veteran running back Jonathan Stewart is on track to come off the physically unable to perform list when he's eligible in Week 7, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said recently. Stewart continues to rehab his surgically repaired right ankle.
Without a trusted backup, DeAngelo Williams has averaged 20 carries a game and is the league's third-leading rusher with 291 yards through three games.
Pyro's take: Stewart will definitely eat into DeAngelo's carries when he returns, which means this is a great time to put Williams on the trading block and see what you can get in return for him. The problem for these Carolina running backs is while they may get some decent yards the touchdowns are few and far between and split between the 3 backs and Cam Newton. Sell high on DeAngelo if you own him.
For the first time in the Cam Newton era, the Carolina Panthers will face consecutive teams with quarterbacks of African-American descent after hosting Russell Wilson’s Seahawks and traveling to E.J. Manuel’s Bills on Sunday.
There were an NFL-high nine black or biracial quarterbacks who started in Week 1. One media outlet has dubbed it, “ The Golden Age of the Black Quarterbacks.”
Newton isn’t throwing a party.
“You don’t have a bar mitzvah just because you’re a starting African-American quarterback in this league,” Newton said Wednesday. “Even though I’m a fan of everybody, I can’t say I just root for Michael Vick, (Robert Griffin III), Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick. I still feel like I learn just as much from Michael Vick as I do from Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers or even RG3.”
Pyro's take: I love the bar mitzvah shout out, but it is good to see that Cam is more focused on having a good game this week. Cam only threw for 125 yards and 1 touchdown in week 1 adding 38 yards on the ground, but that was against a stout Seahawks defense. This week Newton draws the Bills and and he should find a lot more open passing and running lanes, and should have a solid fantasy performance.
Stewart played in just nine games last season, and there's no telling when he'll be recovered enough to play football in 2013. Panthers coach Ron Rivera admitted Tuesday that Stewart might start the season on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, which would knock the running back out of the first six games of the season. Stewart is recovering from ankle surgeries.
"At this point, anything is an option," Rivera said, via The Associated Press. "What you're hoping is you can get him on the football field, and we'll see once the doctor gets a chance to look at him."
That's a big change in tone from last week, when Rivera believed Stewart was on track to play in Week 1.
Pyro's take: This is tough news for Stewart, but good news for DeAngelo Williams and those of us who have been hoping to see one guy lead the way for the Panthers.
Stewart is a player that has never really jumped to the level that many expected to him to reach earlier in his career. Stewart also does not have many great plays that come to mind, unlike Williams who I can recall breaking long runs more than once.
Williams will get a boost in his rankings and if Stewart does hit the PUP list he will not be worth drafting unless you are in a really deep league.
How will Panthers new OC Mike Shula affect Cam Newton in 2013?
When 2011-12 Panthers OC Rob Chudzinski signed on to be the Cleveland Browns head coach back in January, Carolina decided to stay in-house, promoting QB coach, Mike Shula, to be their new offensive coordinator. Since then, Shula showed throughout OTAs that his plan is to move away from the zone-read/option calls and get Newton to make more plays from the pocket.
Pyro's take: That's all fine and dandy, but we're not totally buying it. Shula may indeed try to infuse a more "normal" rushing attack using his RBs instead of Cam, but with Jonathan Stewart coming off of offseason surgery to both ankles, DeAngelo Williams just turning 30 (in April) and Mike Tolbert more of a short-yardage option, we expect Newton to continue his ways as one of the most dominant running quarterbacks in NFL history. Besides, Shula's recent history would agree with us. In his last six years as a QB coach in the NFL (Jaguars, 2007-10; Dolphins, 2011-12), his quarterback ranked amongst the Top-4 in rushing attempts during each of those six seasons (David Garrard, Cam Newton). Basically, Cam should continue to be graded as a mid- to top-end fantasy QB1 in 2013.
Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey (knee) has been practicing with the team all week, but has been doing so on a limited basis.
Pyro's take: It definitely looks like Shock will be playing this Sunday, but likely won't be close to 100% if he does. Our guess is that he ends up playing up that limp of his the moment he drops that first pass.
The Chicago Bears announced today that they have signed Mike Martz to be their offensive coordinator for the 2010 season. Terms of the contract have yet to be disclosed.
Pyro's take: Finally the Bears have "their guy". After going through a lengthy search composed mainly of candidates who pulled out of the running before an offer was even made, Chicago ended up settling for someone who had no problem ripping Jay Cutler to shreds early on in 2009. In order to mend possible broken bridges between the two, Martz immediately flew down to Tennessee to speak with Cutler after his interview.
Animosity aside, Cutler stands to gain the most fantasy-wise from the hiring, while TE Greg Olsen stands to lose the most. Martz has never been one to integrate the tight end into his offensive schemes, but wide receivers Devin Hester, Devin Aromashodu, Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett could be in for a nice uptick in value, as should RB Matt Forte.
Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey (knee) hasn't practiced with the team the last three days and is being listed on the injury report as questionable for the Super Bowl.
Pyro's take: Even though the Saints are practicing as if Shockey won't be available come Super Sunday, the eccentric tight end vows he will play in the big game.
"There's no holding the reins back," Shockey said. "I'll do everything I can, even it that requires hurting myself, to win the game because you got a lot of time to rehab and things of that nature to get right in the offseason."
01/30/10, 02:00 PM CST by Dawgmaticå
Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey (knee) is active for the playoff game against the Vikings today.
Pyro's take: Pretty much everybody is active and ready to go for the high-powered Saints, but don't expect too much from the controversial tight end. He'll likely be used as a decoy for much of the game as he gimps around on his bum knee.
Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey (knee) didn't practice all week and is being listed as questionable on the team's injury report.
Pyro's take: Shockey will be a game-time decision come Sunday. He seemed to re-injure himself last week during his touchdown catch and was a complete non-factor from then on out. Even if he plays, we don't expect too much from him because of the injury.