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Era-adjusted fantasy football player rankings: Wesley Walls, Cam Newton top cats for the Carolina Panthers

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the creation of fantasy football, The Athletic is reviewing the best fantasy players and fantasy seasons in NFL history.

A detailed overview of the system used to grade historical fantasy performance can be found in our greatest fantasy players of all-time introduction page, but here’s a quick summary.

Fantasy player performance is era-adjusted so that players who dominated during lower scoring eras can compete versus players who racked up huge point totals in higher scoring eras.

After these adjustments are made, players are then given credit for having a starter-caliber season (one point), a quality season (one point), an impact campaign (1.5 points) or being an elite starter (two points). These points stack and are measured in both non-PPR and PPR and serve as the basis for determining who are the best fantasy players in NFL history.

Now that we have the preliminaries out of the way, let’s look at the best fantasy players in Carolina Panthers team history!

(Note: the numbers listed below are for the player’s performance while on the Panthers.)

All-time fantasy starting lineup

QB: Cam Newton

RB: Christian McCaffrey

RB: Jonathan Stewart

WR: Steve Smith Sr.

WR: Muhsin Muhammad

TE: Wesley Walls

SuperFLEX: Greg Olsen

Quarterback — Cam Newton

Newton had one of the best three-year starts by a fantasy quarterback, as he finished third or fourth in QB fantasy scoring in every season from 2011-13 and posted 17 career points in those years. Only Drew Brees had a higher career points total (19) in that span. Newton showed those campaigns weren’t anomalies by ranking first in QB points in 2015 and second in QB points in 2017. His 389.1 fantasy points in 2015 was the fifth highest QB fantasy point total of all-time when it occurred, and it still rates as the ninth highest QB fantasy point total.

Running back — Christian McCaffrey

McCaffrey was the type of RB capable of winning leagues in 2018 and 2019, as he posted a total of 20 career points in that two-year span. His 2019 season was a rare perfect 11-career point campaign, as his 471.2 PPR points in that season is the second highest single-season PPR total by a fantasy running back, behind only LaDainian Tomlinson’s 481.1 PPR points in 2006. “Run” CMC has tallied only one starting season outside of those two great years, as injuries have crushed his fantasy value over the past two years, but if he can get back up to his former level, McCaffrey will start moving up the all-time RB career points chart in a hurry.

Running back — Jonathan Stewart

The man nicknamed “The Daily Show” ranks tied for second among all Carolina players in non-PPR starter-caliber campaigns. Stewart was never able to post a quality-caliber campaign, as his highest ranking in any season was a No. 12 finish in non-PPR leagues in 2009, but producing RB2 or flex value on a consistent basis vaulted Stewart to the second RB role on this roster.

Wide receiver — Steve Smith Sr.

Longevity was Smith’s calling card, as he often fell out of starter status due to injuries during his 13-year tenure with the Panthers, but he always bounced back to fantasy relevance. This trend is why Smith leads all Carolina players in number of starter-caliber seasons in both non-PPR and PPR formats. Smith also ranks first among Panthers players in number of quality non-PPR seasons, as no other Carolina player has more than three.

Wide receiver — Muhsin Muhammad

Muhammad funneled a lot his fantasy value into a 2004 campaign that saw him lead all wide receivers in both non-PPR and PPR points. Muhammad is still one of only two Carolina wide receivers to ever post 300+ PPR points in a single season, as his 329 PPR points in that campaign rank second only to Steve Smith Sr.’s 337.8 PPR points in 2005.

Tight end — Wesley Walls

It may come as a surprise that Walls ranks as the best Carolina fantasy player ever, but that surprise leaves once you review his great run from 1996-99. Walls was second in non-PPR and PPR TE points in 1996, fourth in those categories in 1997, and seventh in 1998, but he saved his best for last by ranking second in TE PPR points in 1999 and first in non-PPR points in that season. That campaign was the best ever by a Carolina tight end and it resulted in a perfect 11-career point season that helped vault Walls to the top of this list.

SuperFlex — Greg Olsen

Olsen was one of the most consistent TE point scorers from 2012-16, as he ranked no lower than eighth in non-PPR and PPR points in any of those campaigns and placed in the Top 5 three times in both categories.

All-time best era-adjusted fantasy seasons

QB: Cam Newton, 2011 (370.3 points)

RB: Christian McCaffrey, 2019 (355 non-PPR, 471.2 PPR)

WR: Steve Smith Sr, 2005 (235 non-PPR, 337.8 PPR)

TE: Wesley Walls, 1999 (152 non-PPR, 215.2 PPR)

SuperFLEX: Christian McCaffrey, 2018 (279 non-PPR, 385.5 PPR)

(Top photo: Erik Perel/ALLSPORT)

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