With a new coaching staff, could the Carolina Panthers roll with the rookies as starters for the 2020 season? See why I think they should.
It’s that time of year when rookies are all the rage. The NFL draft is complete, we know where everyone landed, and fantasy owners are consumed with rookie drafts. Now, what we all want to know is how each rookie fits in with their team and their immediate roles. While every team looks ahead to the future, some roll with the rookies right away. The Panthers have three rookies that have the potential to be day-one starters.
The Carolina Panthers have made numerous changes this off-season, including the coaching staff. Matt Rhule, the former head coach of the Baylor Bears, has been hired to lead the Panthers. As with any new head coach, he’ll want to put his stamp on this team right away. With so much turnover on the team, Rhule has some positions where he could decide to roll with rookies and grow together. They addressed these positions with their first three picks of the 2020 NFL draft. With their first pick, the Panthers selected defensive tackle, Derrick Brown, 7th overall. They followed that up in the 2nd round by drafting defensive end, Yetur Gross-Matos, with the 38th overall pick and safety, Jeremy Chinn, 64th overall respectively.
Carolina looks to fill the void in the interior defensive line with the beast, Derrick Brown. The former Auburn Tiger posseses incredible size, strength, and speed. He uses his exceptional burst off the snap, and country-strong power, to destroy blockers. This ability to disrupt makes the opposing team routinely double and triple-team him. Brown has the versatility to play up and down the line, in odd or even man fronts. His tackle radius is much wider than the area he is in. Brown uses a quick punch with great hand use and lockout move to drive through redirection attempts on the interior. His defensive line-mates and linebackers playing behind him will instantly love him, as he will eat up blockers. Brown will provide one of the best interior pass rushes in the league. Due to his motor and size, he will need to be rested at times, but a solid rotation will limit this. Brown is the answer to the Panther’s needs upfront.
Senior stats: 12 games, 54 tackles, 11½ tackles for a loss, 4 sack, 4 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries
Gross-Matos will be counted on to help fill the void as an edge rusher at defensive end. He played this role in college for the Penn State Nittany Lions. Gross-Matos has your prototypical size and agility with the short-area athleticism of a linebacker. He has a wide range at setting the edge and is excellent at chasing down the line of scrimmage. As a pass rusher, he has good burst off the snap and uses his combination of a bull rush then switches to inside counter really well. Gross-Matos’s length will cause a lot of problems for opposing offenses. As I mentioned, he has the frame, but will need to add mass to match his frame. With all his positive traits, he is still somewhat of a raw player. He will be a force on the edge with some grooming.
Senior stats: 11 games, 40 tackles, 14½ tackles for a loss, 9 sacks
Chinn is a safety that went from an unknown, from Southern Illinois to a 2nd round selection. He was one of the hottest risers of this draft class. Chinn’s value was already high after his senior season, but once he competed in the Senior Bowl and the Combine, his value began to skyrocket. He has a terrific NFL frame and body composition made up of size, length, and muscle. This makeup could also allow him to play reps at linebacker. He can get off blockers easily with an aggressive stack and shed approach. Chinn has good speed and uses sharp pursuit angles to the ball. He plays aggressively with a high motor and has the footwork and athleticism of a big cornerback. Chinn is a disruptive playmaker with top-end production abilities. He is a gifted player but his instincts and football IQ need to improve for him to become an elite safety.
Junior stats: 10 games, 71tackles, 2½ tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 4 interception, 7 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery
Why do I think Carolina will roll with the rookies?
In the opening of this article, I mentioned that there were a lot of changes and roster turnover happening with this team. With these changes, there is a really good possibility that the Panthers could roll with the rookies right from the start of the season. Opportunity, in addition to player quality makes this a very likely scenario. When looking at the Panthers roster, the opportunity for them to roll with the rookies is not only warranted but much needed.
First, let’s look at the defensive tackle position. The Panthers have lost some of their star veterans, such as Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, and Star Lotulelei in the last few years. The personnel left on the roster isn’t very inspiring at all, but they do have star Kawann Short still on the team. After a disappointing 2018 and 2019 lost to injury, Short hasn’t been the force he once was. Also, there were scheme changes that didn’t seem to help him. Now with the Panthers presumably going back to the 4-3, Short should kick back inside to defensive tackle. Outside of Short, you can see there is not much to be excited about. For me, this is the perfect opportunity for Carolina to roll with the rookie Derrick Brown.
Next is the defensive end position, where again the Panthers have lost their starters at the position. The latest, Mario Addison, who left to join his former coach Shawn McDermott in Buffalo. This will be at least one opening that is up for grabs. They signed former Viking Stephen Weatherly to come in and compete for one of the bookend spots. The Panthers hope is that with an opportunity in an expanded role, he can become an impact player. Outside of Weatherly, they don’t have much in the way of quality that they can rely on. The obvious choice is to roll with the rookie Yetur Gross-Matos by getting him in the lineup early and allowing him to grow with the likes of Derrick Brown, Brain Burns, and Christian Miller.
Now we get to safety. It’s clear the rookie, Jeremy Chinn, will start day one for the Panthers. If you plan to roll with the rookies, Chinn is definitely one player I am targeting. They didn’t re-sign veteran Eric Reid or add anyone in free agency to this point to fill the position. When they drafted Chinn, in the 2nd round, it made him the favorite to start. With no one else on the roster to threaten him for those starting reps, it’s Chinn’s job to lose. He’s a talented player that will get the chance to start for this young defense and be that impact player on the back end.
The Panthers are set to roll with the rookies, and so should you. I believe all three of these rookies will help your fantasy teams and give you a great return on your investment. Of these three, Jeremy Chinn gives you the biggest and most immediate return. He’ll start day one and produce big plays right away. It doesn’t matter what type of IDP format you play in, Chinn is a guy you’ll want to target in rookie drafts. In my draft database, he is currently the 2nd safety being drafted and 10th overall IDP. His current ADP in rookie drafts is 41.4, which places him in the 3rd/4th round depending on your league’s size.
For me, the next best value of these three is Derrick Brown. Like Chinn, he’ll start day one and give you a great return right away. The thing to keep in mind he’s a defensive tackle and not all leagues use specific positions. However, those league’s that do, Brown will have a much higher value. In those leagues, you should target Brown. My rookie draft database shows Brown as the first defensive tackle drafted and the 11th IDP overall. His current ADP in rookie drafts is 41.7, which places him in the 3rd/4th round depending on your league’s size.
Finally, we come to Yetur Gross-Matos. Elite number producers at the defensive end position are coveted in fantasy. Gross-Matos’s value is better long-term but with the chance to be a starter right away, I can see him providing a decent return short-term. I am not as high on him as some are, but I do like his fit in Carolina and think he will succeed there. He’ll carry a little higher value in sack heavy scoring leagues. In my rookie draft database, he is currently the 2nd defensive end selected and 14th IDP overall. His ADP in rookie drafts is 45.4, which places him in the 4th/5th round depending on your league’s size.