Newton, Olsen & McCaffrey to Stretch Defenses to the Limit
2018 Carolina Panthers Fantasy Football Preview
The Panthers have lured Norv Turner out of his very brief retirement, naming him their offensive coordinator. Turner said he'd need "the right person in the right place" to leave retirement, and Carolina meets both requirements -- he previously coached with Ron Rivera, who served as his DC for four years in San Diego, while he deemed the Panthers "an exciting team to be a part of."
Indeed, the Panthers have some incredibly enticing pieces in place, with none more important than arguably the greatest dual threat to play this game: Cam Newton. The elusively explosive Christian McCaffrey, seam-stretching Greg Olsen, and big-bodied Devin Funchess round out other exciting pieces who Turner will try to squeeze the most out of in his first season in Carolina.
But how do they all fit? Is Turner the guy who can unlock Newton's limitless ceiling? Let's dig in:
General Background / Philosophy
Early Successes, Recent Failures
Turner has as extensive of a playcalling history as anyone still in the league, beginning in 1991 with the Dallas Cowboys. Alongside the legendary Jimmy Johnson, Turner oversaw a massively explosive attack that generated monster outputs from Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, and ultimately won two Super Bowls.
This success earned Turner a head coaching gig with the Redskins, where he generated some monster RB1 (Terry Allen, Stephen Davis) and WR1 (Henry Ellard, Michael Westbrook) seasons over a six year run. This included a 1999 season where his team ranked 2nd in both yardage and points generated; however, Turner's teams' records rarely matched the heroic individual stats, and thus he was let go in 2000.
Over the next six seasons (2001 - 06), Turner continued play calling in a variety of spots, bouncing from San Diego, to Miami, to Oakland, and finally San Francisco. Just like in Washington, some absolute monster fantasy seasons were generated (especially in the backfield), including masterpieces from LaDanian Tomlinson, Ricky Williams, and Lamont Jordan, while WRs Chris Chambers and Randy Moss produced some dominant WR1 stats.
Consequently, the Chargers came calling for their head coaching vacancy, where Turner's forged his legacy during a six season stretch as head coach. Turner consistently crafted some offensive juggernauts that could never ultimately get the job done in the playoffs. Still, he helped LaDanian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates cement their legendary careers, while also creating monsters in Vincent Jackson and even Malcolm Floyd.
Ultimately, the lack of playoff success was Turner's demise. Since San Diego, he facilitated a league-leading 1,646 yard season out of Josh Gordon as Cleveland's offensive coordinator, while also helping Adrian Peterson earn a rushing crown in 2015.
Indeed, Turner has coaxed out some massive individual efforts, and crafted some highly impressive overall attacks. Over these 26 years calling plays, his teams have ranked in the top 10 of points 10 times, while finishing in the top 10 in total yardage in eight instances. He's also found himself inside the bottom-10 for these respective categories only five times.
Unfortunately, most of these lowly finishes have come in the last five seasons. In fact, none of Turner's last five offenses have cracked the top-15 in yards or points. In his defense, all of these squads have lacked any semblance of firepower, and Turner was able to squeeze the absolute most out of a puke-worthy Cleveland QB Committee of Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, and Brian Hoyer.
In Carolina, he'll be equipped with the most offensive firepower he's had since the Tomlinson, Gates, and VJax eras in San Diego. More importantly, many of these pieces fit his scheme / system like a glove:
Scheme / System
The Air Coryell: Simple yet Relentless
With many offenses switching to a "West Coast" backbone, Turner's "Air Coryell" attack will be a refreshing breath of air.
The Air Coryell was coined after the infamous Don Coryell's relentless vertical attack. The offense is predicated upon stretching the defense to its limits in the passing game, while softening the front-seven and establishing the play action with a bruising power run game. In general, the offense isn't so much dependent on high percentage plays as it is gaining massive chunks at a time. Oftentimes, this requires wide receivers winning one-on-one jump ball deep routes.
As such, Turner has historically LOVED taller wide receivers that bring speed with their size. 6'2" Michael Irving, 6'5" Vincent Jackson, and 6'3" Josh Gordon all feasted down the field in this scheme. His offense has clicked most with an athletic tight end capable of stretching seams, with Antonio Gates revolutionizing the position under Turner, and even Jordan Cameron proving dominant.
In the running game, Turner's offense is at it's best with a versatile workhorse who can punish the defense up the gut and rip off finesse screens in equal measure (think LaDainian Tomlinson, Ricky Williams, Emmitt Smith); however, he also often incorporates a satellite back (i.e. Darren Sproles) regardless of his lead back. With the defense constantly stressed with the deep ball, the power run game and screens are opened. In a deadly cycle for defenses, if they choose to shut down the run game and stack the box, they'll be peppered relentlessly down the field.... and if they put the safeties deep, they'll be steamrolled.
Chudzinski summarized all these tendencies when explaining why Turner was his clear-cut top choice and a perfect philosophical match, stating, "It matches with the philosophy that I've grown up in," Rivera said. "You run the football, you're physical as a running team, but then you take your shots with hard play action. It's OK to throw the ball downfield and see how things unfold."
Former Turner-QB Sage Rosenfels emphasized the attacking, vertical nature of his offense, stating, “Norv’s core belief is he would like to push the ball downfield. I don’t think Norv is trying to set a record for 75 percent completion percentage. He also doesn’t want it to be a 50 percent completion percentage. He thinks you have to attack a defense and put a defense on its heels by pushing the envelope down the field.”
Beyond just the plays and schematics, one area Turner thrives is simplification -- something that'll be crucial for Cam Newton:
“I remember early conversations where it was, ‘I don’t know. Look out there. The guy’s open. Just throw the ball,” Rivers told Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback.
“People make it way too complicated. There are some common-sense elements to it,” Turner said in the same video. “There are progressions, but sometimes common sense overrides the progressions.”
“He’s coached all different types of quarterbacks. He’s made a ton of successful quarterbacks,” Chudzinski said. “He just has a way of taking things that are complex and simplifying them and making the game easy. Letting guys go out and play, not be robots and let them do what they do best.”
With a relentless yet simple offense that attacks down the field, the Panthers could return to their dominant 2015 form.
“Norv’s core belief is he would like to push the ball downfield. I don’t think Norv is trying to set a record for 75 percent completion percentage. He also doesn’t want it to be a 50 percent completion percentage. He thinks you have to attack a defense and put a defense on its heels by pushing the envelope down the field.” - Sage Rosenfels on Turner's offense
In 2018, Todd Gurley added 881 yards and 13 TDs to his 2017 total.
The Rams also went from dead last in scoring to 1st in the league, more than doubling their points (14.0 to 29.87).
Did the line and WR upgrades help? Of course.
But the most important addition wasn't one with a helmet, but rather the guy with the headset:
Coaching Scheme plays a huge role in fantasy success, but is so often overlooked.
Don't miss out on 2018's version of McVay. Your FREE Coaching Carousel awaits here.
Passing Game Impact
2005 - Kerry Collins (15 GP): 302/564 (53.5%), 3759 yds, 20 TDs, 12 INTs
2006 - Alex Smith (SF): 257/442 (58.1%), 2890 yds, 16 TD, 16 INTs
2007 - Philip Rivers (SD): 277/460 (60.2%), 3152 yds, 21 TDs, 15 INTs
2008 - Philip Rivers: 312/478 (65.3%), 4009 yds, 34 TDs, 11 INTs
2009 - Philip Rivers: 317/486 (65.2%), 4254 yds, 28 TDs, 9 INTs
2010 - Philip Rivers: 357/541 (66%), 4710 yds, 30 TDs, 13 INTs
2011 - Philip Rivers: 366/582 (62.9%), 4624 yds, 27 TDs, 20 INTs
2012 - Philip Rivers: 338/527 (64.1%), 3606 yds, 26 TDs, 15 INTs
2013 - QB Committee (CLE, Campbell, Weeden, Hoyer): 379/681 (55.7%), 4372 yds, 26 TDs, 20 INTs
2014 - Teddy Bridgewater (12 GP): 259/402 (64%), 2919 yds, 14 TDs, 12 INTs (3892 yds, 18 TD pace)
2015 - Teddy Bridgewater: 292/447 (65%), 3231 yds, 14 TDs, 9 INTs
Turner's offense obviously clicked most with Rivers under center, who threw for over 4,000 yards in 4/6 seasons (including two over 4600). In general, the vertical, "one-on-one" type of attack can create more "boom or bust" fantasy production. Some games, the WRs are roasting defenses deep and the ball is dropping right where it needs to, resulting in 400+ yard and multi TD days. Other times, the corners are winning those battles and the QB heaves disastrous 3 INT clunkers. Ultimately, as seen in San Diego, the upside is enormous with a talented gun slinger who is surrounded with weaponry.
Turner uses frequent five and seven step drop route concepts that do require precision timing and tight fundamentals beyond just a rocket arm.
2018 Outlook – Newton's Upside Higher than Ever
Before digging into specifics, one thing is clear: Turner recognizes just how special of a talent he has at his disposal:
“There's nobody like Cam (Newton). He can really do anything you want to do,” Turner said.
With a cannon arm and the ability to buy time in the pocket, Newton could fit this system like an absolute glove. The major concerns with Newton have always been his short and intermediate game accuracy, never his willingness to take deep shots or his ability to rope the ball down the field.
Turner's offense, centered around simplifying these bombs and shaking the WRs free down the field, absolutely plays into Newton's strengths. In fact, Newton highest passing yardage came his rookie season, when Chudzinski was emulating Turner's system from their San Diego days.
As mentioned, Newton will also benefit from Turner's ability to simplify the offense and relieve mental stress. Remember - Turner wants to craft a basic plan centered around his player's strengths, allowing them to just play versus overthinking. No one is more dangerous than Newton when in groove and simply playing ball.
Where Newton will need to improve is his attention to the intricacies -- the footwork in the drops, setting his feet before slinging. Despite frequent coaching on this, Newton's rarely developed his pocket passing habits. Turner himself is well-aware of these gaps, noting:
“I always think it's important for the quarterback when you're in the pocket, the things you're doing to be very quick with the ball, be specific, get the ball out, and I think that's where we can help Cam,” Turner said.
“I think there's some technical things in the drop, in the vision, where you're looking, when you're looking that we can help and get the ball out quicker. We can help with his accuracy and then continue to find the things he does best and let him do those.”
Meanwhile, Tomlinson is fully confident Turner will be the guy who can turn these habits around and fully refine Newton's laser arm and pocket passing habits. When asked how Turner can most help Newton, LT replied:
"As Cam gets older, and he’s not a spring chicken anymore, he’s going to have to continue to develop in the pocket. The completion percentage has to go up above 60. I think he’s going to take that next step with Norv. If anybody can do it, it’s Norv. Cam is going to have to put in the work and he’s going to have to trust Norv. And it’s going to have to be about timing. Norv’s offense is all about timing. Three steps, get the ball out, five steps, hitch and get it out of your hand. Those are some of the ways Norv will be able to help Cam. And he’s going to do the things that Cam likes to do. Cam loves to throw the ball down the field and Norv is going to use that, just as he did with Philip Rivers.”
The major question then becomes: what about Newton's mobility? This is, afterall, what gives Newton a higher ceiling than legitimately any other player in fantasy.
In that light, Turner's worked almost exclusively with statuesque pocket passers -- sure, Bridgewater has some athleticism, but nothing that can hold a candle to Newton. Encouragingly, QBs coach Scott Turner (Norv's son), recognizes this ability and does not plan to rein it in but rather let it flourish:
"He's going to play his way. He's going to run -- that's what makes him the dynamic player he is.
"But also making the throws in the pocket, going through his reads. All of those things come from experience, and he's played seven seasons now. A lot of things go into that -- your eyes, your feet and ultimately your decision making... He doesn't need changing; he just needs to be the best version of Cam Newton."
Ultimately, the table is set for an absolute monster fantasy season. If (a major if) Newton accepts the coaching, gets precise in his timing and fundamentals, and evolves as a pocket passer, he's going to have limitless deep ball and rushing opportunities to feast upon. Speedy first-round rookie DJ Moore undoubtedly belps, and joins a cast of deep-streakers in Torrey Smith and Curtis Samuel that'll provide Newton and Turner enough weaponry to explode 2018, ala his MVP campaign just two seasons ago.
- Past Production
2005 - Randy Moss (OAK): 123 tgts, 60 rec, 1005 yds, 8 TDs
2006 (PUKE) - Antonio Bryant (13 GP): 91 tgt, 40 rec, 733 yds, 3 TDs
- 2007 (Puke) - Vincent Jackson: 80 tgts, 41 rec, 623 yds, 3 TDs
- 2008 - Vincent Jackson: 101 tgts, 59 rec, 1098 yds, 7 TDs
- 2009 - Vincent Jackson (15 GP): 108 tgts, 68 rec, 1167 yds, 9 TDs
- 2010 (Injuries) - Malcolm Floyd (11 GP): 77 tgts, 37 rec, 717 yds, 6 TDs (1042 yd, 9 TD pace)
- 2011 - Vincent Jackson: 115 tgts, 60 rec, 1106 yds, 9 TDs
- 2012 (Puke) - Malcolm Floyd (14 GP): 85 tgts, 56 rec, 814 yds, 5 TDs
- 2013 - Josh Gordon (14 GP): 159 tgts, 87 rec, 1646 yds, 9 TDs (1881, 10 TD pace)
- 2014 - Greg Jennings: 92 tgts, 59 rec, 742 yds, 6 TDs (Cordarrelle Patterson fiasco year)
- 2015 - Stefon Diggs (13 GP): 84 tgts, 52 rec, 720 yds, 4 TDs (886 yd, 5 TD pace)
When Turner's been provided a lanky, speedy, deep ball artist, he's typically dominated. From elite talents like Michael Irvin, Randy Moss, and Josh Gordon, to otherwise nobody's in Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd, Turner has squeezed out 1,000 yard seasons like no other. He gives his WRs simple routes, and peppers them with opportunity after opportunity to win contested balls.
As noticeable in the low reception but high target and yardage totals, Turner's WRs may never have catch percentages that wow, but the YPC and scores come in bunches. Even his WR1s don't come with a true weekly floor, given his vertical nature. Still, all it takes are a few chunk plays for a very productive day, and the booms can often be week winners.
2018 Outlook – Can a Target Hog Emerge from the Congestion?
The Panthers don't have a wideout in the typical "Norv Turner" (re: 6'3, blazing speed) build. Indeed, current No.1 Devin Funchess has the size at 6'4", but he's far from a burner and best fitted for a complementary role. He'll do some intermediate damage, but the Panthers need someone with more speed alongside the size to truly execute this scheme. Meanwhile, DJ Moore, Torrey Smith, and Curtis Samuel definitely all have the jets, which they've apparently flashed all OTAs...but none stand above 6'.
Thus, discerning who'll emerge from this congested pack is difficult. Funchess would appear to have the early edge as the veteran incumbent, but again, he's a poor fit in Turner's vertical-based scheme. Instead Moore, the first WR selected in 2018, is my early favorite. His 6' frame is thick and powerful, yet still blazes at 4.42 speed.
Moreover, the Panthers passed on the longer, faster Calvin Ridley because they were so enamored with Moore, and he's turned plenty of heads thus far: "The first-round pick has shown strong hands, seemingly snagging everything that’s come his way since rookie minicamp, including a number of catches in traffic." Additionally, the team has already removed the training wheels, as team analyst Bryan Strickland noted, "They’re taking it slow with those guys (rookies during OTAs) but the one rookie that was really active was D.J. Moore... He looked like he belonged out there."
Still, Moore's only a rookie. With Turner's tendencies targeting TEs and RBs, it'd be a long shot to expect him or any other WR to lead this team in catches, yardage, or scores. He's still worth a stab at his Penny Stock price (130 ADP), as the natural ability and opportunity to emerge are both very real.
- Past Production
Past Tight End Production (note - only four of 14 tight ends barely crossed the 500 yard threshold prior to Gates. Hence, we start with him):
2007 - Antonio Gates (SD): 117 tgts, 75 rec, 984 yds, 9 TDs
2008 - Antonio Gates: 92 tgts, 60 rec, 704 yds, 8 TDs
2009 - Antonio Gates: 114 tgts, 79 rec, 1157 yds, 8 TDs
2010 - Antonio Gates (10 GP): 65 tgts, 50 rec, 782 yds, 10 TDs (1,251 yd, 16 TD pace)
2011 - Antonio Gates (13 GP): 88 tgts, 64 rec, 776 yds, 7 TDs (957 yd, 9 TD pace)
2012 - Antonio Gates (15 GP): 80 tgts, 49 rec, 538 yds, 7 TDs
2013 - Jordan Cameron (15 GP): 118 tgts, 80 rec, 917 yds, 7 TDs
2014 - Kyle Rudolph (8 GP): 34 tgts, 24 rec, 231 yds, 2 TDs (462 yd, 4 TD pace ew)
2015 - Kyle Rudolph: 73 tgts, 49 rec, 495 yds, 5 TDs
Outside of Kyle Rudolph, Turner has pulverized seams when provided an athletic tight end. Gates forged a legendary career under Turner's tutelage. Often, Turner will use simple hitch and out patterns, before unleashing the "shallow-and-go" concepts with his tight ends. He also loved using Gates and Cameron on isolation routes in the red zone, splitting them to the outside and allowing them to box out defenders with their larger frames. Simply put, a vertical and athletic tight end will be used to the maximum.
2018 Outlook – Greg Olsen Set for a Late Career Renaissance
Fresh off three straight 1,000+ seasons, Olsen had his 2018 cut tragically short due to a foot injury. Turner's presence should inspire hope for an immediate 1,000 yard rebound, however. Even at less than 100%, Olsen still flashed his long speed and silky route running down last season's stretch, and his injury did not require any surgery. Olsen was always used by Shula down the seams, but where Turner may really bring him to life is in the red zone. Expect Olsen to split out wide plenty when inside the 20, where he can bully smaller corners with his 6'5" frame and excellent hands. Even at 33 and in year 12, Olsen should threaten his career high 8 TDs from way back in 2009.
Run Game Impact
- Past Production
Pre-2005: Emmitt Smith continued to forge his Hall of Fame career under Turner as a three-down workhorse. Meanwhile, Terry Allen and Stephen Davis had dominant seasons (1353 total yards and 21 TDs for Allen in '96 and 1405 total yards and 17 TDs for Davis in '99) in Washington. Ricky Williams also had two monster seasons during Turner's brief Miami visit, including a 16 TD, 1852 total yard league winner in 2001.
2005 - Workhorse - LaMont Jordan (OAK): 1588 tot. yds, 11 TDs, 70 rec (103 tgts), 272 carries
2006 - Workhorse - Frank Gore (SF): 2,180 tot. yds, 9 TDs, 61 rec (86 tgts), 312 carries
2007 - Workhorse - LaDainian Tomlinson (SD): 1,949 tot. yds, 18 TDs, 60 rec (86 tgts), 315 carries
2008 - Workhorse - LaDainian Tomlinson: 1,536 tot. yds, 12 TDs, 52 rec (77 tgts), 292 carries
2009 - Committee - LaDanian Tomlinson (14 GP): 884 tot yds, 12 TDs, 20 rec (30 tgts), 223 carries; Darren Sproles: 840 tot yds, 7 TDs, 45 rec (57 tgts), 93 carries
2010 - Committee / Injuries - Mike Tolbert: 951 tot yds, 11 TDs, 25 rec (29 tgts), 182 carries; Ryan Mathews (9 GP): 823 tot yds, 7 TDs, 22 rec (26 tgts); Darren Sproles: 787 tot. yds, 2 TDs, 59 rec (75 tgts)
2011 - Workhorse-ish - Ryan Mathews (14 GP): 1,510 tot. yds, 6 TDs, 50 rec (59 tgts), 222 carries; Mike Tolbert: 923 tot. yds, 10 TDs, 54 rec (79 tgts), 121 carries
2012 - Committee / Injuries - Ryan Mathews (9 GP): 959 tot yds, 1 TD, 39 rec (56 tgts); Ronnie Brown: 591 tot. yds, 0 TDs, 49 rec (59 tgts)
2013 (PUKE) - Committee: Chris Ogbonnaya (CLE): 583 tot yds, 2 TDs, 48 rec (74 tgts)
2014 -Committee / Injuries: Matt Asiata: 882 tot. yds, 10 TDs, 44 rec (63 tgts), 164 carries; Jerick McKinnon: 673 tot. yds, 27 rec (41 tgts)
2015 - Workhorse - Adrian Peterson: 1707 tot. yds, 11 TDs, 30 rec (36 tgts), 327 carries
Turner is no stranger to a workhorse, and has coached some absolutely monstrous campaign in his extensive history. His system produced the NFL’s leading rusher six times, with Emmitt Smith (1991-93), Ricky Williams (2002), LaDainian Tomlinson (2007) and Adrian Peterson (2015). Tomlinson had plenty of other dominant seasons, while Gore, Terry Allen, Stephen Davis, and Lamont Jordan all had their career bests under Turner as well. Turner's unafraid to saddle up a back for 300+ carries to establish his play action and screen game and softening the front seven. Moreover, thanks to his vertically obsessed passing game, defenses cannot stack the boxes or they risk giving up humongous chunk plays on every down.
However, Turner's history isn't exactly committee free. Most of these timeshare plagued years were the result of an injury, however. Moreover, the pass-catching backs have always dominated. Over his career, RBs have accounted for 30.8% of Turner's target share -- right on par with Sean Payton's usage of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram in 2018. In fact, over the past 12 seasons, Turner has had 10 RBs top 45 receptions, whether in a committee or workhorse role.
McCaffrey to continue, perhaps surpass, his receiving dominance... but don't discredit CJ Anderson
McCaffrey set a tough receiving bar to top in 2017, leading the league in RB targets with 113, finishing third in receptions (80) and fifth in yardage (651). Still, meeting those targets, and perhaps exceeding the yardage, is a surprisingly realistic 2018 outcome. Tomlinson, who understands how Turner deploys his backs more than anyone, thinks McCaffrey will find even more space and success as a sophomore -- especially as a runner:
"We all know the glaring thing that Christian excels at, and that’s coming out of the backfield and catching the ball. That’s a given, and Norv will create those matchups for him in a way that he’s never seen before. That will be really good, but the thing I’m excited about seeing is how Norv is going to use him in the run game. Norv is going to get him on the perimeter. He’s going to call the things that Christian does well – getting him on the edge, getting him in space. So you’ll see a lot of those toss plays, you will see the misdirection plays...To me, Christian will be the guy, the premier player in that offense."
HC Ron Rivera is similarly projected an uptick in rushing usage, who laughed when asked if McCaffrey could see 200 carries after only 117 in his rookie season:
"Everybody forgets when he was in college he ran between the tackles more than anybody and he touched the ball more than anybody," Rivera said. "So I don't see why not."
Rivera's alluding to the 337 carries and 2,019 rushing yards (+45 catches) McCaffrey racked up his senior year. Meanwhile, Turner's lead back has 200+ carries in 17 of 23 seasons he was the full-time play-caller, and nine seasons of 300+. Injuries were almost always responsible for the 26% of times his lead rusher failed to hit those totals. The similarly-sized and styled LaDainian Tomlinson averaged 276 carries under Turner, including a 339 carry, 59 catch rookie masterpiece in 2001. Workhorse upside is possible for the jacked-up McCaffrey.
Still, the sophomore back will never be confused for a "bruiser." While he has underrated strength and can knife through defenses up the gut, he won't soften them the way Turner likes to do with a physical runner.
Enter CJ Anderson.
A perfect complement to McCaffrey, Anderson is a North-South bowling ball who can bruise and slash with equal aptitude. Even at only 5'8", Anderson's a Maurice Jones-Drew clone at a sturdy 225 lbs, with excellent balance and powerful leg drive that never stops until he's truly down. His style thoroughly contrasts McCaffrey, and, as a souped-up Jonathan Stewart, Anderson could easily lead this team in carries despite all the "McCaffrey Workload" buzz.
In fact, Anderson's combination of power, sneaky receiving ability, and league-leading pass-blocking ability almost perfectly mirror a "souped up" Tolbert skillset, with added elusiveness and speed. As a refresher, Tolbert logged back-to-back 900+ total yard, 10+ TD seasons under Turner from 2010-11. As a far superior talent, Anderson would have no trouble topping 1,000 total yards and 10 TDs if deployed similarly. In fact, Anderson called his first ever 1,000-yard 2017 "just a start," and purposely signed a 1-year deal to prove he was a steal. He should see every opportunity to back this up despite McCaffrey's presence; expect the pair to take the field at the same time in countless formations, just like Darren Sproles did alongside LT for so many years in San Diego.
Thus, when evaluating McCaffrey and Anderson for fantasy purposes, the clear value falls with the former Bronco. McCaffrey's currently going at No.19 overall and RB13 -- above three-down backs like Jerick McKinnon or Joe Mixon, or target hogs like Davante Adams or AJ Green. Meanwhile, Anderson falls to 93 overall and RB38, despite a real chance at a similar-sized workload that includes the ever-valuable GL touches. Don't be shocked when these two finish with similar fantasy totals, despite nearly 7 rounds difference in price, making McCaffrey an unfortunate avoid and Anderson an "unsexy" target of mine.
Ultimately, expect McCaffrey to thrive as a receiver, while either Stewart or (ideally) a power back racks up carries to establish the power run game. Newton's prowess at the goalline will always lower the TD ceiling of the lead back, regardless of who this may be.
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While some call Turner a retread, uninspiring hire, I absolutely love how his scheme meshes with the Panthers' current roster. First and absolutely foremost is Cam Newton, who could absolutely thrive in Turner's vertical-based "Air Coryell" attack. Sure, Newton will need to improve his precision in timing, footwork, and other pocket-passing habits to truly thrive. Yet, his rocket-arm, ability to extend plans, and love for the big play are a perfect fit for Turner's downfield attack. Moreover, the coach has no plans to rein in Newton's rushing, and the signal caller will benefit from Turner's ability to simplify the complex and allow his players to "just ball." An absolute monster could be brewing here.
While Newton ascends, the value of his surrounding pieces is tough to discern. Christian McCaffrey is the highest drafted Panther, going at 19 overall in current mocks. Though his skillset is dangerous, and he'll remain among the highest used backs in the receiving game, McCaffrey's unlikely to match the workhorse volume his price assumes. Instead, CJ Anderson, who's likely to see similar volume and rack up GL touches, is the far more appealing backfield piece priced seven rounds later (93 overall, RB38). Anderson's a souped up Mike Tolbert, and should have no trouble approaching the dough-boys lofty 900+ total yards and 10+ TD outputs under Turner.
On the pass-catching front, Greg Olsen seems likely to lead the team in yardage and scores if he remains healthy. Turner has a rich history of stretching seams and terrorizing red zones with his tight ends, and Olsen still flashed juice during last season's stretch run. Expect him to reintroduce himself to the firm TE1s in 2018.
Likely behind McCaffrey and Olsen on the target totem pole, this congested pack of WRs remain tricky to discern or rely on. Currently, DJ Moore -- 2018's top-selected rookie WR -- offers the most "upside-stab" appeal at 130 overall. He's a complete blazer, and while his 6' frame is slightly under the typical "6'4" Turner Tree" out wide, Moore's thick, strong, and can outmuscle defenders for the contested catch in traffic. Devin Funchess may have the size, but Turner's scheme is all about stretching the defense, and Funchess' sluggish speed seems ill-fitting here. Tracking camp usage and seeing if a favorite emerges will be crucial, however, as Turner has a rich history of 1,000+ yard wideouts.
All-in-all, Turner has plenty of tools to turn around his recent lack of success (bottom 15 in yards and points for his past five years), and return to his days of dominant offenses. If Newton takes to his coaching, everything could mesh perfectly and approach the Panthers' dominant 2015 offense.
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