The Carolina Panthers are in the midst of a very important season about to start. Quarterback Cam Newton is coming into his third season and is out to prove that he can indeed lead a team to a winning record. Head coach Ron Rivera is on the hot seat in some eyes, and he has to get it done this year.
On offense, the Panthers still have a good share of weapons. Newton gets to line up with — still — one of the best wideouts in the game, Steve Smith. He loves his tight end, Greg Olsen, and looks for him more often than not in dire situations. The running game, though, has been under-acheiving as of late and Rivera has to get that established right off the bat in week one.
For now, Carolina will be operating without running back Jonathan Stewart, who typically splits carries with fellow back DeAngelo Williams. The Panthers were forced to place Stewart on the PUP list meaning he won’t be activated until after week six, thus giving Williams a solid six weeks to prove he can be the number one guy.
I have a feeling if Williams performs well, he could re-establish himself as the main guy in Carolina, with Stewart getting a few carries here and there. Especially in a year where there is so much pressure on Carolina, and specifically Rivera and Newton, I would expect Williams to get plenty of carries initially.
The offense has to be balanced and they have not been able to get their run game to where it should be, specifically throughout last season. In 2013, Williams will be ‘the’ feature back to begin with and should be looked at very seriously in all fantasy drafts as a potential RB3 or even a guy who rides your bench for the first week or two depending on how many teams are in your league.
In every league, though, Williams will be a factor and is going to be a big-time sleeper. I expect Carolina to come out of the gates with a lot to prove and Newton will certainly shoulder most of that pressure. But, Williams hasn’t been the guy he was a couple of years ago and has tons to prove as well. Look for him to add significant value to your roster within the first several weeks in particular.