By Eric Schmidt

Most Fantasy Football leagues are not won with the players you select in the early rounds, but rather, those players that come in the later rounds. For that reason, fantasy owners are always looking for those late round gems known as fantasy football sleepers. I believe the Carolina Panthers are one of the more intriguing teams in the NFL heading into the 2012 regular season. Two players on the panthers offense could be poised for career seasons as an integral part of the Carolina offense this season.

The Panthers already have one of the most dynamic rushing attacks in the league with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. If that wasn’t enough of a threat, Carolina added RB Mike Tolbert via free agency. Don’t forget that their quarterback, Cam Newton, can run the ball occasionally.

Heading into his second season, I expect Newton’s rushing attempts to decrease slightly. He set the rushing touchdown record last season for the quarterback position, but the addition of Tolbert could see those touches decrease slightly.

The two players I think which will be late round values for the Panthers are TE Greg Olsen and WR Brandon LaFell. Because of roster moves this offseason and now a complete season in the Panthers offense under their belt, these two players could post career seasons.

The tight end position is the deepest I’ve ever seen in my 15 year history of playing fantasy football. But if you happen to miss out on one of the top players and the position, you can still add great value to your roster with Greg Olsen. Olsen recorded 45 receptions last year for 540 yards and five scores. However, he was teamed with Jeremy Shockey last year. Shockey is no longer in Carolina and Olsen’s production should increase considerably. Shockey caught 37 balls last year, so Olsen could see his reception total by at least 20.

The addition of Mike Tolbert as the Panthers fullback should ease Olsen’s blocking responsibilities more this season as well. 65 receptions for 900 yards and 7-9 scores shouldn’t be considered unreasonable from Olsen this season.

Brandon LaFell will be lining up opposite Steve Smith and heading into his third season should also be preparing for career numbers. Last season, LaFell split duties with WR Legedu Naanee but has solidified the number two position with Naane now in Miami.  In the same manner that Shockey vultured off receptions from Olsen, Naane did the same to LaFell. Naane and LaFell combined for over 1,000 yards last season.

I expect the Panthers to have a prolific offense this season, a team capable of scoring points in bunches based on their roster. LaFell should approach 900 yards this season with 5-7 scores.

 

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