Analyzing the Fantasy Value of the Carolina Panthers DEF/ST
The Carolina Panthers weren’t a very good fantasy unit in 2011. In fact, in just about every way, they left any fantasy owners hanging over a fire pit. In the NFL ranks, they finished 25th in run defense. In turn, their pass defense also suffered, as they finished as the 24th best pass defense by the numbers.
And that only makes sense. If you can’t stop the run, teams will use play action on you all day, and then kill you through the air. Or they’ll use their explosive passing game to lull you to sleep and then plow your poor run defense away in the second half, even if their rushing attack is average or below it.
But it wasn’t just about the NFL rankings for Carolina in 2011, as their fantasy identity on defense was also off the mark – and by a lot. Due to their inability to stop either the run or the pass, Carolina ended up giving up an insane 429 points, picking off just 14 passes, registering a pretty meager 30 sacks, and scoring just one lousy touchdown as a defense.
Those are pretty weak numbers across the board for any defense, and they correctly landed the Panthers at the 30th overall spot for team defense in fantasy football in 2011. And I’m not sure what’s worse; that they were 30th, or that two other teams found a way to play more pathetic defense last season.
Whatever the reason may be, the criticism stops here, because there just might be light at the end of the tunnel for these Panthers.
With the return of linebackers Thomas Davis and Jon Beason to full health (hopefully), and the addition of rookie tackling machine Luke Kuechly, the Panthers have a real shot at fielding one of the most talented and effective linebacking corps in the entire league.
Yes, Carolina was beaten down on defense last year. But they were also beaten down in the injury department. Along with Kuechly, who could really be something special all on his own, the Panthers added depth in the draft, and return key players to their rotation to give their defense some extra muscle.
The battle still arguably begins and ends up front, however, where more changes could have been made. Instead, Carolina looks to improve from within on the defensive line for the most part. That will mean some added pressure on their linebackers and secondary, but both units have talent and both could be up to the task.
There’s no doubt that Carolina is fighting an uphill battle in proving they can turn it around. But drafting Kuechly was a great start, and getting back to full health certainly can’t hurt. You shouldn’t be drafting the Panthers as your number one DEF/ST unit in 2012, but I think they could be a unit that shocks a lot of people and gets itself out of the bottom half of the league. It just may take half the season to get there.
With that said, I still think there’s some really good value in IDP (Individual Defensive Player) leagues. Rookie Luke Kuechly is expected to man the weak-side of the team’s 4-3, while a healthy Beason will man the middle. That means tackle machine James Anderson will play the strong side. I think all three guys bring solid value, but I’m taking Kuechly first out of the three. Chris Gamble should retain quality value as a defensive back, too, while Charles Johnson continues to be the defensive lineman you’ll want off the Panthers’ line.