Here’s The Game Day’s Carolina Panthers 2021 NFL Preview: 2020 Recap And 2021 Outlook For Fantasy Football & Betting.
Panthers 2021 Team Preview
Carolina Panthers 2020 Recap
- Final record: 5-11: 2-6 Home / 3-5 Away
- Division regular-season finish: 1-5
- Result: Finished third in NFC South, missed postseason
Optimism was high in Carolina last offseason with a new head coach (Matt Rhule) and quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater), but those hopes were quickly dashed as injuries limited Christian McCaffrey to just one game after Week 2. Without their greatest offensive weapon, the Panthers finished 24th in scoring and lost nine of their last 11 games.
On the plus side, Bridgewater proved solid under center, Mike Davis did a capable job filling in for McCaffrey, and newcomer Robby Anderson bolstered the receiving corps with a career-best season. The defense also improved considerably, going from 31st in points allowed in 2019 to 18th last season. With better health and luck, the Panthers likely would have been closer to a .500 team and perhaps could have competed for a playoff spot.
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Panthers 2021 Offseason Departures
- Teddy Bridgewater, QB (traded to Denver Broncos)
- Curtis Samuel, WR (free agent, signed by Washington Football Team)
- Mike Davis, RB (free agent, signed by Atlanta Falcons)
- Kawann Short, DT (released)
- Stephen Weatherly, DE (released)
- Zach Kerr, DT (released)
- Tre Boston, S (released)
Panthers 2021 Offseason Additions
- Sam Darnold, QB (via trade from New York Jets)
- Cam Erving, OL (free agent)
- Pat Elflein, OL (free agent)
- Haason Reddick, LB (free agent)
- Morgan Fox, DE (free agent)
- Denzel Perryman, LB (free agent)
- David Moore, WR (free agent)
- Dan Arnold, TE (free agent)
Carolina Panthers 2021 NFL Draft Picks
- Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina (Round 1, Pick #8 Overall)
- Terrace Marshall, Jr., WR, LSU (Round 2, Pick #59 Overall)
- Brady Christensen, OT, BYU (Round 3, Pick #70 Overall)
- Tommy Tremble, TE, Notre Dame (Round 3, Pick #83 Overall)
- Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State (Round 4, Pick #126 Overall)
- Daviyon Nixon, DT, Iowa (Round 5, Pick #158 Overall)
- Keith Taylor, CB, Washington (Round 5, Pick #166 Overall)
- Deonte Brown, OL, Alabama (Round 6, Pick #193 Overall)
- Shi Smith, WR, South Carolina (Round 6, Pick #204 Overall)
- Thomas Fletcher, LS, Alabama (Round 6, Pick #222 Overall)
- Phil Hoskins, DT, Kentucky (Round 7, Pick #232 Overall)
Carolina Panthers 2021 Outlook
For the second consecutive year, the Panthers will enter a season with a reclamation project of sorts under center. After Teddy Bridgewater put together the best season of his career last year, Carolina hopes to have similar luck with former No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold.
Whether Darnold will prove to be a legitimate upgrade over Bridgewater remains to seen. He’s a difficult player to get a grasp on after spending three years with a terrible organization, so nobody’s sure what he’s capable of with a competent coaching staff and supporting cast. There have been positive reviews regarding the 24-year-old’s acclimation process this offseason, however, with former Jets teammate Anderson noting how much more relaxed Darnold seems now that he’s out of the Big Apple pressure cooker and surrounded by a much more talented group.
For starters, he gets to play alongside one of the NFL’s best players in Christian McCaffrey, who is coming off an injury-plagued 2020. McCaffrey is one of the few running backs who can dominate a game on the ground and in the air, so he’ll take a lot of pressure off Darnold and make his life much easier. By both his own account and that of offensive coordinator Joe Brady, McCaffrey is back to full strength already and is expected to enjoy a robust three-down workload.
Darnold will also benefit from a solid receiving corps that includes DJ Moore and former teammate Anderson, both of whom surpassed 1,000 receiving yards last year. Former Seattle Seahawks wideout David Moore is another weapon in his arsenal, while Dan Arnold is an intriguing tight end who could be primed for a breakout. Additionally, Arnold’s incumbent position mate Ian Thomas has gotten rave reviews for his offseason work, with Rhule going as far as saying the fourth-year pro has a legitimate shot of winning the starting role this summer.
Carolina’s defense ranked around the middle of the pack in points per game (25.1) and yards per game (360.1) allowed last year. They were firmly in the lower 10 of the league with just 29 sacks, but the acquisition of Haason Reddick following his 12.5-sack campaign with the Arizona Cardinals in 2020 should help. Former first-round pick Brian Burns appeared to take a big step forward with nine sacks last year, and offseason addition Denzel Perryman is set to provide an athletic presence in the middle of the defense.
All things considered, the Panthers are trending up and should be better than they were last year, although their roster’s holes and question marks will likely keep them out of the playoffs again.
Carolina Panthers 2021 Fantasy Football Tips
Sam Darnold, QB: After three seasons in the NFL, Darnold is still something of an enigma. The former No. 3 overall draft pick struggled with the Jets, but perhaps a fresh start can help him get his career back on track. He’s in a better situation now with superior weapons, including Anderson who he already played with in New York. While he’s never reached 3,100 passing yards or 20 touchdowns in a season, he could eclipse both benchmarks this year, making him a QB2 for fantasy purposes.
Christian McCaffrey, RB: After a lost 2020, McCaffrey should be back to full strength and ready to go for 2021. The 25-year-old was highly productive last year when he did play and will once again merit a top draft choice. Look for McCaffrey to bounce back and reclaim his status as one of the best players in fantasy football.
Robby Anderson, WR: Following four seasons with the Jets, Anderson erupted in his first campaign with the Panthers last year, posting career-highs across the board. He immediately established himself as the team’s top receiver, finishing with 95 catches and 1,096 receiving yards, albeit with only three touchdowns. Having already played two seasons with Darnold, he should remain the new QB’s favorite target and post strong WR2 numbers once again, especially with Curtis Samuel out of the picture.
DJ Moore, WR: Moore has emerged as one of the NFL’s best receivers over the past few years, exceeding 100 targets and 1,100 receiving yards in each of the last two seasons. Similar to Anderson, all those yards haven’t translated to many touchdowns (10 in his career), but his volume alone still makes him a viable WR2. Like Anderson, Moore should also receive a bump in targets this year following Samuel’s departure.
Dan Arnold, TE: Arnold enjoyed a modest breakout with the Cardinals last season, pulling in 31 of his 45 targets for 438 receiving yards and four touchdowns. The athletic fourth-year pro has never averaged less than 12.5 yards per reception, and his 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame should make him a red-zone threat. Consider him a TE2 with low-TE1 upside depending on how he meshes with his new team.
Carolina Panthers 2021 NFL Futures Bet Tips
Panthers To Finish Third In NFC South (+190)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed to keep the bulk of their Super Bowl-winning roster intact, while the New Orleans Saints still have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball to survive in the post-Drew Brees era. That leaves Carolina likely looking at another third-place finish in 2021, albeit with an appreciably better record than their 5-11 mark from 2020.
Exact Outcome, NFC South: 1st Buccaneers / 2nd Saints/ 3rd Panthers/ 4th Falcons (+350)
Building on the previous prognostication, I like taking a flyer on this wager, especially after the Atlanta Falcons traded Julio Jones. That dampens their outlook for the upcoming season considerably, likely dooming them to a fourth consecutive losing campaign and a second straight last-place finish.
Panthers To Finish 2021-2022 NFL Season With Over 7.5 wins (+100)
I don’t think the Panthers will clear this total by much, but I do think there’s enough offensive talent here for them to at least go 8-9, especially if the defense continues to improve and Darnold plays up to his potential. There are enough pieces here for a multi-win improvement over last year, especially with the other teams in their division either getting worse or treading water.