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Contract Speculation and Breakdown: Carolina Panthers

Contract Speculation and Breakdown: Carolina Panthers

By: Matt “TheJerk” Morrison (@dynastyjerk)

Two teams down and two to go…That’s right, this month is more than halfway over, and we are halfway through the NFC South. Up today we have another team that had a rough season to say the least. The Carolina Panthers finished third in their division at 5-11. I know football is a game that doesn’t rely on a single player. In fact, it is probably the furthest away you can get from a single player sport. That being said, the loss of Christian McCaffrey was clearly an insurmountable problem for the Panthers. CMC played only three games in 2020, and he strung Dynasty Owners along all season. When a player suffers an injury that is season ending it is devastating, no doubt. But I would argue that it’s worse to have a Joe Mixon or CMC type injury where the Owner thinks there is hope of return just to be disappointed in the end. This scenario is true about both Mixon and CMC. They both suffered serious injuries, but there was optimism a return to action was coming. Neither were able to provide any semblance of fantasy production over the second half of the season. In the three games that McCaffrey did play, he averaged 30.1 fantasy points per game. An unreal and seemingly unsustainable production. We look ahead to 2021 where Christian should leave the pain of 2020 behind him.

Contract Speculation

I have noted only two Dynasty Owner rosterable free agents for the Panthers this year. As always, the term “rosterable” is subjective, but I feel these are the only two players worth mentioning from an Owner’s standpoint. The players are Mike Davis and Curtis Samuel. We’ll get to Samuel in a bit, but first I want to talk about a player I was fortunate enough to own last year in both of my DO leagues: Mike Davis

Davis is a 27-year-old running back who has completed six years of service in the NFL. It would be appropriate to consider him a journeyman player as he has played on four different teams in those six years. Davis signed a two-year contract worth $6,000,000 with the Bears in 2019 prior to being released by them in the same year. Carolina claimed Mike off waivers, and he kept his original contract. Well, that contract is expiring, and he looks to continue his career as a backup. It’s hard to imagine that Davis showed enough this season to warrant a lead back opportunity on any team. While he was an effective fantasy asset (he finished the season as RB12) he was also unreliable from week to week as more than half of his games ended in less than 11 fantasy points. Here were the high points from Davis’ season…

  • Massive Opportunity:  Davis ranked 13th in touches for the 2020 season. (224)
  • A Target Hog:  Davis received the fifth most running back targets in 2020. (70)
  • High Touchdown Total:  Davis went for six rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns. He was also a very reliable “goal to go” player as five of his six rushing touchdowns came inside the five-yard line.
  • Sure Hands:  Davis not only ranked sixth in the entire NFL in catch percentage (84.3%), but he also had only a single fumble all season.

Now for the bad…

  • Inefficiency:  Davis constantly underwhelmed in the efficiency category (one that most of you know is my favorite). He rushed 165 times for 642 yards on the season for a mediocre 3.6 yards per carry.
  • No Bonuses:  Despite the extremely healthy workload Davis had all season, he was unable to crack 100 rushing yards in any game. I understand this Dynasty Owner two-point bonus is not the pinnacle of fantasy production, but with a running back of Davis’ caliber, you think he would have accomplished that feat at least once.
  • Lackluster Second Half:  Davis had inconsistent games throughout 2020, but they also seem to be back loaded towards the end of the season. Here are his final nine games played in 2020:  (8.6 – 8.7 – 8.7 – 8.4 – 15.9 – 10.9 – 26.3 – 8.1 – 8.8)  The number of eight-point fantasy games are mind boggling, but even more concerning is the idea that maybe he isn’t used to a full workload for an entire season. I’m not claiming that to be the case, but you better be sure that prospective teams are considering that.

So, what does all this mean? This means that Davis will make a team in 2021. He will be rostered. The extent to which he plays is anyone’s guess. I tend to believe past history doesn’t lie, and it will dictate his 2021 season. He should find his way to a team in need of running back depth and possibly a change of pace/goal line back. This is certainly a valuable player to have if you are an NFL franchise. The problem is that his real-world value is most likely not going to translate over to fantasy value. I predict he’ll sign a contract similar to 2 years for 8 million dollars. This will put him right at $4,000,000 per year and worth rostering in Dynasty Owner in case his lead back goes down with an injury. Continue to roster Davis confidently until we see where he signs.

Up next we have one of my favorite free agents of this offseason and a contract that I can’t wait to see unfold. The player is Curtis Samuel. Before I get into the specifics of Samuel, let me give you a blind player pool to look at. I’ll post a table with five players and their 2020 stats. You tell me who you would rather have…

ReceptionsTotal YardsTouchdowns2020 FP
Alpha661,2154211.5
Bravo771,0515211.1
Charlie911,0013207.3
Delta728504189.6
Echo978319231.1

Okay, who would you rather own? I know this is kind of an impossible question to ask because you’re likely to just take the player with the most total points last year. Without giving much more away, I’ll give you each player’s Dynasty Dollar per Fantasy Point (DD/FP) for last year as well…

DD/FP
Alpha13,205
Bravo7,643
Charlie4,621
Delta79,641
Echo4,539

It’s safe to assume that most of these players were on cheap contracts given the fact that all but one has a low DD/FP. That is a correct assumption. Everyone except for Delta made under $3,000,000 in 2020. So, do you have guesses as to who any of these players are? You know that one of them is probably Curtis Samuel. Any idea who he may be? Well, here it is…

ReceptionsTotal YardsTouchdowns2020 FP
D.J. Moore661,2154211.5
C. Samuel771,0515211.1
C. Kupp911,0013207.3
J. Landry728504189.6
J. Smith-Schuster978319231.1

Any surprises? I suppose the biggest shock is my main point. Samuel was comparable, if not more productive, than his four coworkers on this list. He was arguably the most reliable and consistent wide receiver for the Panthers in 2020 especially over the back half of the season. Once again, I ask, “what does it mean?”  Well, Curtis is only 24 years old and is set to be an unrestricted free agent. Spotrac has his “Calculated Market Value” at 12.4 million dollars per year. The closest contract we’ve seen that is comparable to Samuel’s upcoming contract is probably Stefon Diggs’ when he signed for $14,400,000 per year for five years. Now, I’m not saying that Samuel is on Diggs’ level production wise, but he will command a similar type contract given the fact that “wide receiver money” has been rising consistently.

Contract Breakdown

For my breakdown today I’m going to keep it simple. I’m not going to overthink it. We’re going to just be talking about the best “fantasy” running back in the league:  Christian McCaffrey. Notice how I didn’t say, “the best running back in the league.”  While I think he is clearly amazingly talented and athletic, I think he is well outside the Top 2 for best true running back. So, let’s get talking…

CMC had a season to forget. As I mentioned in the opening, he only played three games, but he provided 30.1 fantasy points per game during those three. That production is not sustainable, and he would have surely dipped below that average had he played an entire season.

Or would he have?

I wanted to find out for myself, so I took a look at his 2019 season. Wouldn’t you know it, he averaged exactly 30.1375 fantasy points per game. UNREAL! Then I started to think, “what would his actual stats have looked like for 2020 if he would have averaged the same production season long? Here is the 2020 projected season compared to his actual 2019 season…

Rush AttRush YdsRecRec YardsTDsFP
2019 Season2871,3871161,00519482.2
2020 Season3141,1949079432481.6

Hopefully this gives a little more of an explanation. We can see that CMC was less efficient in every way for the 2020 season except for touchdown percentage. Yes, it is a small sample size of three games, but it is still data. He was, proveably, less efficient in 2020 than 2019. He was good. There is no doubt about it, but his unsustainable touchdown rate is what inflated his fantasy points per game last year. So yes, I would argue that unless his efficiency made some major improvements, he was on an unsustainable pace. Now, let’s take a look at his comparison to fellow players before we wrap this article up…

2021 SalaryYearsFantasy PointsDD/FP
CMC$16,015,8754481.6$33,256
A. Kamara$15,000,0005379.9$39,484
E. Elliot$15,000,0005221.7$67,659
D. Cook$12,600,0005352.8$35,714
D. Henry$12,500,0004368.1$33,958

Here are the top five highest paid running back in the NFL for 2021 (minus David Johnson. I didn’t include DJ in this comparison as he finished outside the Top 20 for RBs in 2020, and he would be an extreme outlier.)  We can see that CMC is not only the highest paid back in this group, but he is also (according to DD/FP) the biggest value as well. It’s rare to compare five players of any position and find that the most expensive one holds the most value. This is especially true when talking about a 3-million-dollar difference in contract. At any rate, based on 2019 and 2020 data, CMC is still the back to own of any of these five. Now, you could make a case for any of these other running backs for the long term, but I myself would still take CMC. Let me ask you this question…off the top of your head, who do you think is the youngest of these five players?

It’s not a trick question. The answer is McCaffrey. Not only is he the youngest, but it’s not even close. Kamara, Cook and Elliot were all born in the summer of 1995 and Henry was born in the winter of 1994. CMC was born in the spring of 1996. That may not be surprising to you, but it was for me. CMC is still my choice off all these elite running backs. Once we get started talking about Saquon, Taylor or Sanders, then we may have a better conversation, but of these five, he is the pick.

Thank you for reading and be sure to watch the video that relates to this article. Next week I’ll be wrapping up the NFC South as we will discuss the New Orleans Saints and a handful of contracts. Please follow us on Twitter @Dynasty_Owner and subscribe to Dynasty Owner on YouTube. Take care and be safe.

TheJerk

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