2016 Outlook: DeAngelo Williams' departure finally gave Stewart full ownership of the Carolina backfield last season, and he responded well. Despite missing three games, he ranked among the top 11 RBs in carries, rushing yards and rushing TDs. He powered his way to five top-10 weeks and finished no week ranked worse than 28th after Carolina's Week 5 bye. On the other hand, Stewart is 29 and has missed 23 games because of injury over the past four seasons. Owners need to weigh his lack of durability and passing-down involvement against his feature role in a dynamic offense, which leaves him as an RB2.
2016 Outlook: Newton took his game to a new level in 2015. He finished as fantasy's top scorer, tossing a career-high 35 TD passes and running for 10 scores. He has always picked up points on the ground, ranking among the top three QBs in carries, rushing yards and rushing TDs in each of his five seasons. But last year he added big chunks of yardage through the air: Newton's 10.5-yard average depth of throw--how far down the field the target is--trailed only Carson Palmer's for the league lead. Newton's accuracy remains an issue: He was off target on 21.2 percent of his throws, one of the league's worst marks, and completed just 59.8 percent of his attempts (league average: 63 percent). Still, he posted seven top-three fantasy weeks, and with Kelvin Benjamin back, Newton is primed for another elite campaign.
2016 Outlook: Olsen is as reliable a tight end as you'll find this side of Gronk. He has ranked among the top 10 at the position in targets, receptions, receiving yards and TDs in each of the past four seasons. Olsen is also more of a deep threat than most TEs--his average depth of target (10.5 yards) was the highest at the position last year. He scored seven TDs last season, but with WR Kelvin Benjamin back from a torn ACL, Olsen figures to lose some red zone opportunities. Still, the fact that he handles more than 20 percent of Cam Newton's targets will easily make him a strong TE1.
2016 Outlook: the Carolina offense enjoyed a breakout 2015 campaign, but imagine how much better it could have been with its No. 1 receiver. After an impressive rookie campaign in which Benjamin posted 1,008 receiving yards, he tore his ACL last August. During his big rookie season, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Benjamin scored nine TDs thanks to an NFL-high 24 end zone targets. Expect him to slide comfortably back into his role as Cam Newton's go-to wide receiver and become one of the few players in the league with the potential for 12-plus TDs.
2016 Outlook: Funchess failed to emerge as an every-down player as a rookie, but he impressed--for the most part--when called upon. He hauled in 31 of 64 targets for 473 yards and five TDs despite inconsistent playing time. Funchess is one of the league's biggest WRs (6-foot-4, 225 pounds), which would normally make him a lock for goal-line work. But he is actually playing alongside an even bigger target in the 6-5, 245-pound Kelvin Benjamin, who led the NFL in end zone targets as a rookie before tearing his ACL last year. Funchess will push Ted Ginn and Corey Brown for the starting spot opposite Benjamin.
2016 Outlook: The Panthers rode big plays to a fourth-place finish in fantasy points last season, their second top-five ranking in three years. They led the NFL with 24 interceptions, 22 forced fumbles and 15 fumble recoveries. Their secondary took a hit in the offseason with the losses of Josh Norman, Charles Tillman and Roman Harper, but defensive standouts Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Shaq Thompson and Charles Johnson will keep this unit among the best in the NFL. The Panthers should also benefit from a season-opening slate that includes the low-scoring Broncos, 49ers, Vikings, Falcons and Bucs.
2016 Outlook: Gano was fantasy's No. 2 kicker in 2015 thanks primarily to Carolina's offensive success. He posted seven top-10 fantasy weeks, which tied him for seventh among kickers. Gano led the league with 59 PAT attempts and 56 conversions and was tied for fifth in field goal attempts. His 84.7 percent field goal conversion rate since 2013, however, is slightly below league average. In fact, the journeyman finished no better than 14th among kickers in 2013 and 2014. The Panthers' offense is a good bet to regress this season, which will leave Gano as more of a fringe fantasy starter than a top-end option.
2016 Outlook: Ginn caught only 44 passes last year but scored 10 TDs, which tied for 10th in the NFL. His game revolves around the big play: His 16.5-yard average depth of target trailed only that of Sammy Watkins and Malcom Floyd for the NFL lead. But he posted an ugly 47 percent catch rate because of shaky hands (7.4 percent drop rate, tied for fourth worst in the league) and inaccurate throws (32 percent of balls thrown his way were off target, second highest). If Ginn can't beat out Devin Funchess and Corey Brown behind Kelvin Benjamin, he'll struggle to see anything more than the rare deep shot. Aim higher in the mid-to-late rounds.
2016 Outlook: When the Panthers drafted Artis-Payne in the fifth round last year, they hoped he could help fill the void left by DeAngelo Williams. He showed some flashes, averaging 4.1 ypc on 45 attempts, but he couldn't move past journeyman Fozzy Whittaker as the top reserve behind Jonathan Stewart. Artis-Payne has some handcuff appeal this year, with the highest fantasy ceiling among Stewart's backups in one of the league's top offenses. But even in the event of an injury to Stewart, Artis-Payne likely would share snaps with Whittaker and Mike Tolbert.