Week 1 Panthers Stacks: Fade Cooper Kupp, start Julio Jones

Introduction
Welcome to Fanatical Stacks, the award-winning Rotogrinders blog that was formerly home to just Atlanta Braves stacks. With the advent of football, we get to double-dip and talk some NFL DFS, too! Today is all about the Panthers, which is where my NFL fandom resides.

A Panthers Overview

Cam Newton – The reports on his shoulder have been positive, but seeing his throwing motion in a real game today will be a nice test. Now 30 years old, Cam Newton went on the record with Peter King saying he “didn’t have to be Superman anymore.” I think that was more of an acknowledgement of the weapons surrounding Cam than it was an admission that he can’t be productive anymore. If the Panthers can focus on protecting Cam by getting the ball out quickly to his impressive stable of pass-catchers, I LOVE the potential for Cam Newton in 2019. Carolina has done a great job of shifting away from big-bodied guys who can’t separate, namely Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess. The current stable of receivers are quick and shifty, major YAC threats. Let those guys do the work, Cam!

Run-CMC – What can you say? The Rams linebackers and DBs should be no match for CMC in space. CMC logged 326 touches last year (third-most in the NFL) and for all the talk of reducing his workload a bit, the depth chart is a question mark with Jordan Scarlett behind him—a fifth-round rookie out of Florida. Until I see something different, I expect CMC to EAT again in 2019.

D.J. Moore – Last year Moore became just the 14th receiver ever to log at least 700 receiving yards at the age of 21 or younger. The rise of Samuel doesn’t mean Moore isn’t a stud. It means we might have TWO studs. Moore should be moved around the formation frequently in search of advantageous matchups, so I don’t think we need to worry about duel with Aqib Talib, who was the most impressive corner for the Rams a year ago.

Curtis Samuel – Entering his third NFL season, it seems that Samuel has added more football IQ to his always impressive speed and quicks. He was the story of the Carolina offseason, and now we get to see what actually translates for the former Ohio State running back. He will operate as the primary deep threat in this offense, and if his slightly smallish 5-11, 195 pound frame can hold up, he’ll do plenty of damage. Like Moore, I don’t worry much about a showdown with either Rams corner, not with how much Norv Turner likes to move guys around.

Greg Olsen – Coming off of a second consecutive season with a broken right foot, it is fair to wonder how much Olsen has left in the tank. But if he is healthy he adds just one more lethal component to the offense, even if he is a decoy up the middle—creating more space for the other guys to get open behind him. Now entering his 13th NFL season, I am a little bit skeptical that Olsen is an option for the duration of the season.

Ian Thomas – He missed some time this offseason with a rib injury, but also made some great catches when healthy, and should benefit from the experience he gleaned as a rookie last year when Olsen was hurt. Still, while Olsen is healthy Thomas profiles as a tertiary option in this offense.

The Opponent

What do I expect from the Rams? The most interesting nugget I have unearthed thus far is more potential 12 personnel today, which would limit the snaps of one Cooper Kupp, who is returning from a torn ACL suffered in Week 10 of last season. Kupp did not see the field during the preseason, and it makes sense to me that the Rams would manage his snaps a bit in his first live action since the injury. That means the snap counts for Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks could be impressive, and we should see Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett on the field helping the rebuilt Rams line defend against an impressive Carolina defensive front.

For me, it means I am leaning towards Woods and Cooks as my options to run it back with, and avoiding Kupp. I don’t think I’ll get to either Rams tight end, but it wouldn’t surprise me if one of them pops a bit today.

Other NFL DFS Plays

Who am I hoping to weave in alongside the aforementioned guys? Chris Carson and Dalvin Cook lead the list of potential running backs, and I have some interest in Matt Breida.

On defense, there are SO many options. Baltimore, Dallas, Philadelphia…just pick one! I don’t hate the Lions against the Cardinals either. Consider me not yet sold on an Arizona air raid offense…especially when Patrick Peterson (suspension) isn’t around to shore up the defense. On a related note, I like Kerryon Johnson quite a bit today, too. In fact, there are options everywhere in Week 1, with all of this soft pricing. So many ways to go.

Everyone knows and loves Tyler Lockett, but who else will Russell Wilson throw to in the first game? I like Will Dissly as a no-cost, bargain-bin tight end if you are desperate…but that is more appealing in a deep seasonal league, honestly. My main preference is still to use Chris Carson and run it back with Tyler Boyd, who is the primary guy in that offense not named Joe Mixon (A.J. Green appears to be shelved for at least the first two games of the year).

Last but not least, I’m not sleeping on Julio Jones today. The matchup against Xavier Rhodes seems overrated to me. Julio Jones, per PFF, averaged 2.81 yards per route run a year ago—the best mark in the NFL by any receiver when in shadow coverage. Rhodes was banged up last year, but also turned in the worst PFF grade of his career. He was bested twice by Davante Adams a year ago, and was also beaten by Brandin Cooks (though the Cooks TD was against Trae Waynes). Rhodes did keep guys like Alshon Jeffery, Kelvin Benjamin, Allen Robinson, and Kenny Golladay under wraps…but none of those guys are Julio Jones. And none of those guys have a QB as quality as Matt Ryan (in my humblest of opinions). I’ll take a shot with the elite receiver today, while everyone else chases Calvin Ridley.

Who do you guys love or hate today? Welcome back, NFL!

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