Reports out of L.A. today point towards a possible season-ending surgery for highly touted rookie WR Mike Williams. While this is certainly a wrench in the gears for a player many expected to make an immediate impact, what it does is open the door for last years suprising success Tyrell Williams to return as the #2 WR on the outside.
I expect Benjamin to remain penciled in as the slot receiver, and if he’s healthy, he’ll take a chunk of the looks Williams was expected to have. But the real winner, assuming Williams misses significant time, is Tyrell Williams.
Last year with Allen and Benjamin missing time, Williams stepped up big time to the tune of 1059 yards on 69 catches, and 7 TDs. Williams has the size (6’4″) to be a big redzone target, but add to that a rise in the depth chart, and you have a recipe for success for the 51st WR being selected.
While he likely won’t repeat last years numbers, it’s still not a sure thing that the wideouts ahead of him on the chart last a full 16 games. Obviously keep an eye on Williams progress, but Williams should still be good for 800 yards and 7-9 TDs.
A tough blow came today as reports centered around a season ending ACL tear for Panthers star WR Kelvin Benjamin. After lighting up the league as a rookie, he’ll be sideline for the entire 2015 season, throwing further shadow across an already tough-to-gauge roster.
Cam Newton Impact: Don’t expect him to throw for 4,500 yards even with Benjamin in the line up. You can expect maybe a bit of a down turn passing yards, but he still has two towering red zone targets in Greg Olsen (6’5″) and rookie WR Devin Funchess (6’4″) so TD’s won’t be an issue.
Devin Funchess Impact: Temper your expectations! Obviously he’ll be in line to receive a bulk of the 140 targets that went to Benjamin last year, but he’s still a rookie, and he doesn’t have the pedigree of an Amari Cooper or Nelson Agholor. He’ll produce at a level acceptable of a fantasy WR3 but be mindful of over drafting just because of the injury to Benjamin.
Greg Olsen Impact: As a receiving tight end, there’s only a few more prolific in the league. This injury should make Olsen the #1 option for Cam Newton on most weeks, I’d expect a top 5 season from the big man.
Jonathan Stewart Impact: This should help Stewart early as the team may lean on the run a bit more than usual. If the usage increases for Stewart, expect injuries to follow.
Bonus Impact: For those who have Cameron Artis-Payne flagged as a late round flier, this is great news. A team that has been committed to the run for years is down it’s best receiver and will likely integrate more Artis-Payne than over using it’s aging RB1. Although Stewart still sits atop the depth chart, as a cuff, he’ll be far more productive than other backups in the league.