Originally posted on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 7/9/12

Today I am covering the Offensive Line Fantasy Value of the Carolina Panthers.  This unit is part of what enabled Cam Newton to rush for 700+ yards, to throw for over 4000 yards and to score 14 TD’s on his own.  Notice I said part.  He has above average athletic ability, so some of that has to factor into his success as well.  O.K, on to the Offensive Line…..Left Tackle is Jordan Gross, Left Guard is Amini Silatolu, Center is Ryan Kalil, Right Guard is Geoff Hangartner, and Right Tackle is Jeff Otah.

Left Tackle Jordan Gross was chosen in the 1st round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Panthers and has played his entire career there.  He is a two time Pro Bowl selection at LT.  In 2009, he signed a 6 year deal that made him one of the highest paid O-Linemen in the NFL.  He is a decent size but not overly hulking, he relies on sound technique to fight off opposing defenses.  He has active hands, shuffles well and anchors at the point.  He is considered to be one of the NFL’s best pullers.


Left Guard Amini Silatolu was selected by Carolina in the 2nd round of the 2012 NFL Draft.  He has yet to play an NFL game but his college bio has indicated that he is a bit raw, doesn’t kick slide well, but offsets that with a nasty streak.  He prides himself in being a decent run blocker but can handle speed rushers as well.  He is a bit slow to diagnose blitzes so being next to a great line caller in Ryan Kalil can’t hurt.  He will definitely endure a trial by fire situation in Carolina but being between Jordan Gross and Kalil should help his development.


Center Ryan Kalil was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Panthers.  Quick and strong, he is widely recognized as one of the best Center’s in the game today.  In 2011 he signed a six year $49 million deal making him the highest paid Center in NFL history.  He has been a selection to the Pro Bowl on multiple occasions.  Rarely beaten, he is an extremely smart, rangy, technician.  He studies game film more than most, so he can adapt and continue to learn.


Right Guard Geoff Hangartner was drafted in the 5th round of the NFL Draft by the Panthers.  He played with Carolina for a few years before signing on to play Center with the Buffalo Bills in 2009.  In 2011 he came back to Carolina and currently plays Guard.  Known to be extremely smart, he scored a 47 out of 50 on the Wonderlic Test administered during the NFL Scouting Combine.  His versatility can’t be overlooked as he can play almost every O-Line position.


Right Tackle Jeff Otah was drafted by Carolina in the 1st round of the 2008 NFL Draft.  Carolina was very high on him, as they moved up in the draft to select him.  He is a massive RT at 6’6 and 330 pounds.  He is incredibly strong at the point of attack when healthy, however he has struggled to remain on the field.  He has only played in 29 of a possible 64 games so far in his NFL career.


Now to analyze the numbers…..


Carolina ranked 5th in total Run Blocking in 2011.  The RB’s were allowed to gallop for a league high 5.30 yards per carry which was almost one full yard per carry more than than the NFL average of 4.31.  The RB’s were stopped at/or behind the line 17% of the time which was below the NFL average of 19%.  They converted on 3rd/4th down runs 71% of the time which was well above the NFL average of 62%.  Carolina only ran the ball 307 times in 2011 which ranked 31st in the NFL.  They ran predominately behind the Center/Guards to the tune of 57%.  The RB’s experienced the least success running behind the Center/Guards as they only averaged 3.87 yards per carry.  They experienced the most success running outside Jordan Gross as they averaged 5.85 yards per carry which was 2nd in the NFL.  As a side note, they also had tons of success running outside Jeff Otah or back up RT’s.  They averaged 5.56 yards per carry here which ranked 1st in the NFL.  Obviously, statistics indicate that sweeps are more valuable than draws.  Most Fantasy Owners are aware of the giant cluster of RB’s/FB’s that Carolina has going into 2012.  Hopefully I can answer a few questions for you….It is my opinion that Cam Newton will have his carries scaled back.  He is the franchise and they need to protect him as best as possible.  Jonathan Stewart will be the number 1 RB on the team and will receive the most carries, followed by DeAngelo Williams who will also get his share of touches.  He signed a decent contract recently and will have to earn his keep.  However, the Ace in the Hole is Mike Tolbert, the newly appointed Full Back.  He will receive the lion’s share of short yardage and goal line carries so he will score some Fantasy Points.  The Panthers won’t be behind this year as much as they have been in year’s past so perhaps they will employ the running game more, so they can control the clock.


The Panthers ranked 21st in Pass Protection allowing Cam to be sacked on 7.2% of dropbacks.  Some of this was caused by the 1st read being blanketed, so Newton held on to the ball longer than most.  Being a young QB, he tried to make something out of nothing rather than throw the ball away early in the year.  After a slight adjustment period, his sack total was less due to taking a couple of looks and throwing the ball into the stands.  The key for Carolina is keeping Cam upright and uninjured so look for him to throw a bit less this year, to run a bit less, and to get his RB’s a few more carries than in 2011.


My statistics were compiled thanks to www.footballoutsiders.com


Tomorrow I will cover Chicago


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