There are few teams facing more pressure heading into the 2022 NFL season than the Carolina Panthers. With head coach Matt Rhule on the hot seat given new owner David Tepper’s short patience, newly acquired quarterback Baker Mayfield is the third-year head coach’s last hope to retain his job.
Now boasting a surprisingly loaded offense, a defense with some key pieces, and in a division that is very much up for grabs, the Panthers 2022 season is a crucial one. Even if they don’t win a playoff spot, they have plenty of players that could help you secure a playoff spot in your fantasy football league. So let’s take a look at who some of those may be.
2022 Carolina Panthers – Fantasy Football Deep Dive: Old Face, New Place
Baker Mayfield, QB
You want to talk about a turbulent offseason? Look no further than Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns. Not only did the Browns trade for a star but troubled quarterback in Deshaun Watson but for weeks after, they refused to trade Mayfield. After a while, the Browns finally gave in and traded the former first overall pick to the Carolina Panthers.
Mayfield will likely win the starting job over fellow first-rounder Sam Darnold, setting him up to be Matt Rhule’s last chance at proving he can save any quarterback’s career. While Mayfield’s 2021 season left a lot to be desired, it’s important to remember the context surrounding the Browns’ offense as well.
Not only did he play with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder and a broken humerus among other injuries, but Browns coach Kevin Stefanski’s offense is not friendly to a quarterback at all. A run-first offense fits the talent the team has pretty well but it also severely limited the passing game to the point where it ran Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, and Odell Beckham Jr. all out of town.
In 2020 (his last fully healthy season), Mayfield had 15 fantasy football points or more in 10 out of 16 games which places him firmly in QB2 territory. Once again, that was in an offense that places heavy emphasis on the run game. Now that he has a more pass-happy coach and system, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Mayfield can hit that mark every week if he’s healthy.
Darnold started 12 games for the Carolina Panthers last season and in those games, he attempted 30 or more passes in nine of them. On the other hand, Mayfield only went over 30 attempts in eight of the 15 games he started last season.
Rhule clearly likes passing the ball more than any other coach Mayfield has ever had in the pros. Just two years removed from having 26 touchdowns and less than 10 interceptions, Mayfield still has plenty of potential to have a career rebound. The talented receiving duo of D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson combined with the still hopeful young talent of Terrace Marshall Jr. adds plenty of optimism around this Panthers offense.
If you’re desperate toward the end of your fantasy football draft for a backup QB, Mayfield is certainly not a bad option to keep an eye on in the later rounds. Mayfield will likely go undrafted in most leagues which opens up a prime opportunity to add him to your waiver wire watchlist.
Should your starting or backup quarterback go down with an injury, Mayfield could be one of the best options out there. His rushing stats will not blow you away but adds another aspect to his fantasy football appeal along with the fact that he’s a quarterback who has proven that he is capable of throwing over 25 passing touchdowns multiple times.
At worst, Mayfield belongs in QB2 territory, at best, this is a player who could win Comeback Player of the Year and end up finishing as a low-end QB1.
2022 Carolina Panthers – Fantasy Football Deep Dive: Potential Breakout Player
Terrace Marshall Jr., WR
To say that Terrace Marshall’s rookie season was a disappointment would be a massive understatement. The former LSU receiver and second-round pick finished his rookie season with only 17 catches for 138 yards and zero touchdowns. It’s worth noting, as was the case for many Panthers last season, that he dealt with significant injuries including a concussion and a foot injury.
The Panthers will hopefully no longer have a quarterback carousel like they did last year. After all, it’s hard to ask any receiver to succeed with a turning wheel at the most important position in football. P.J. Walker, Sam Darnold, and even the returning Cam Newton all attempted to lead the team. With Mayfield supposedly firmly at the helm, stability might be just the medicine that Marshall needs for a sophomore season bounce back.
While DJ Moore and Robby Anderson have the top two receiving spots locked down, the slot position is a prime preseason battle for Carolina during the preseason. If Marshall can lock down this key spot, he could wind up being a reliable WR3/FLEX option for fantasy owners looking for a deep sleeper.
2022 Carolina Panthers – Fantasy Football Deep Dive: Bold Prediction
Christian McCaffrey will finish as a top-3 fantasy football running back
Christian McCaffrey is without a doubt one of the most talented running backs in the NFL today. Unfortunately, his health also makes him one of the most inconsistent. He hasn’t played a full season since 2019 and in fact, hasn’t even played more than half a season in the last two seasons either. However, it’s easy for fantasy football players to forget that before that, McCaffrey’s three seasons saw him post more than 1,500 all-purpose yards in each season.
The dynamic player still has a massive amount of potential but the big question mark is if he can remain healthy. As long as he can avoid injury, which is a risk worth taking, McCaffrey should still have enough tread on his tires to remain atop the fantasy football food chain. Especially with stability finally arriving at the quarterback position.
It’s also important to note that none of CMC’s injuries led to any significant surgeries or torn ligaments leading to a justified hope for a healthy 2022 season. While sophomore player Chuba Hubbard is a concern for biting into McCaffrey’s playing time, CMC had a 50% snap share in every game he played last season so Hubbard’s presence shouldn’t be enough to make McCaffrey not worth taking.
Should McCaffrey stay healthy, his usage rate will be so high to the point that it will once again catapult him into the top ranks with players like Jonathan Taylor and Austin Ekeler. The latter name is particularly interesting as a comparison given they both boast similar skill sets. McCaffrey’s dual-threat as a receiver and a runner will almost certainly guarantee his return to fantasy football greatness in 2022.