Fantasy Football: Breaking Down the Panthers’ Wideouts With Teddy Bridgewater
The Carolina Panthers' offense was dominated by Christian McCaffrey in 2019, and that figures to be the case again this fall. However, that doesn't mean we should ignore Carolina's passing game in fantasy.
D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel return to their roles at wide receiver and will be joined by former New York Jets receiver Robby Anderson. With no other significant free agents picked up and not a single draft pick spent on the offensive side of the ball, this trio of veteran receivers -- in addition to McCaffrey, of course -- should command the workload in the Panthers' game.
Despite struggles in 2019 and relatively low expectations again in 2020, all three receivers deserve some consideration for your fantasy roster. Let's take a look at what roles they're expected to play and how optimistic we should be for their fantasy value this season.
How Does Robby Anderson Fit In?
Anderson played the majority of his career in New York lining up wide, and the 6'3" receiver figures to play that role in Carolina as well.
Jarius Wright, who was not re-signed this offseason, was Carolina's primary slot receiver last year. However, Samuel (36 targets in the slot, according to Sports Info Solutions) and Moore (35 targets) also saw significant action there.
Given Samuel and Moore's recent experience in the slot and Anderson's height advantage on the outside, it's probably safe to assume one or both will emerge as the primary slot weapon, with Anderson maintaining his role on the outside.
Since the Panthers lost 155 targets in free agency (mostly Wright and Greg Olsen), and their only significant addition was Anderson, there should be enough opportunities for all three receivers to play meaningful roles in the offense.
Teddy Bridgewater's Impact
Bridgewater hasn't been his team's primary starter since 2015 with the Minnesota Vikings, but we got a taste of what he has to offer during a five-game stretch as the New Orleans Saints' starter last season.
Throughout his career, Bridgewater has been known as a conservative quarterback, and that trend held true in New Orleans. According to Sports Info Solutions, only 12.2 percent of Bridgewater's passes traveled at least 15 yards past the line of scrimmage, the lowest rate in the league.
There's little reason to expect Bridgewater to change such a fundamental part of his game at this stage of his career, but even on relatively few opportunities, the downfield passing game could be where Bridgewater makes the most significant impact on his receivers' fantasy value.
Allen was a liability for the Panthers last season, and his atrocious downfield passing significantly diminished Moore and Samuel's fantasy impact. Among the 45 receivers who saw at least 25 targets at 15 or more yards downfield, no one saw a lower catchable target rate than Samuel and Moore, according to Sports Info Solutions.
|WR||Tgts||Catchable||Catchable Tgt Rate|
|DJ Moore, CAR||32||13||40.6%|
|Curtis Samuel, CAR||42||18||42.9%|
|Auden Tate, CIN||28||13||46.4%|
|Robert Woods, LAR||27||13||48.1%|
Bridgewater, despite throwing downfield at a more conservative rate, was substantially more accurate. As a result, fewer downfield attempts will likely still lead to more conversions in the deep passing game.
During his five-game stretch as New Orleans' starter, Saints receivers saw 16 catchable targets at 15 or more yards downfield -- a 73 percent catchable target rate. That's nearly half as many catchable targets in a five-game span as Moore and Samuel saw during the entire 2019 season.
Who Benefits Most From Bridgewater?
Seeing an increased rate of catchable targets will obviously benefit both Moore and Samuel, but it won't necessarily impact them equally. Despite being used as a downfield weapon more frequently, Samuel was significantly less productive on those routes.
Using that same group of 45 receivers, if we analyze their fantasy production strictly based on points per catchable target, Moore skyrockets up the list to number two overall (5.1 fantasy points per catchable target), behind only Stefon Diggs. However, Samuel remains at the bottom, checking in at 44th out of 45 with just 2.1 fantasy points per target. Anderson ranked 28th with 3.5 points per target.
The reason for the difference is Samuel's inability to come down with the ball even when it's on target. Samuel caught just 73 percent of his catchable downfield targets, the fifth-worst rate among that group. Moore caught 100 percent his downfield targets. Those numbers were consistent with their performance the previous season when Samuel caught just 60 percent of his catchable downfield targets, compared to 90 percent for Moore.
Based on these numbers, we can expect Moore, and to a lesser extent Anderson, to take full advantage of the upgrade to Bridgewater. Even in a potentially more conservative offense, Moore should generate a higher rate of big plays downfield, leading to bigger fantasy numbers.
How to Value Carolina's Receivers
Despite working with an inept quarterback, Moore still managed to average 15.4 fantasy points per game, which ranked 16th among wide receivers. We should expect those numbers to improve with Bridgewater.
According to 12-team Bestball10s since the start of June, Moore is coming off the board as roughly the 30th overall pick and the 9th receiver selected. This reflects the expected boost in production, so it's an appropriate spot to take him. Receivers in this range are often grouped fairly close together -- last season receivers ranked 9th through 19th all scored between 15.1 and 16.0 points per game -- so if you're expecting an even bigger leap, you could justify taking Moore slightly higher.
Anderson and Samuel are riskier players to project because we don't know exactly what their role will be. If we assume Samuel plays in the slot, we should expect a steady volume of targets from the conservative Bridgewater, but maybe not as many valuable downfield targets as he saw from Allen last season. This probably makes Samuel a high-floor/low-ceiling fantasy option.
Playing in a new offense, Anderson is even harder to predict. We assume he'll line up on the outside and play a role as a downfield weapon as he did in New York, but Bridgewater's history tells us there won't be a ton of downfield targets to go around.
Anderson and Samuel are going in the same range at pick 137 and 140, respectively, with both going outside the top 50 wideouts. If you expect the Carolina offense to take significant steps forward, feel free to take a flier on either guy in the late rounds of your draft. Anderson's role as an outside deep threat probably gives him more upside, but Samuel offers a safer bet to produce on a weekly basis.