Terrace Marshall was the WR1 on Carolina’s depth chart after they traded D.J. Moore earlier this month — a suboptimal situation for a team on the verge of selecting their franchise QB. Since then, they’ve added D.J. Chark and Adam Thielen at WR and Hayden Hurst at TE, which isn’t a stellar receiving corps but should be at least competent enough to get a proper evaluation on their rookie quarterback. We still don’t know who the Panthers will select with the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, but it’s probably safe to assume he’ll be starting most, if not all, of their games in 2023. Let’s dig into the fantasy implications of the Chark and Thielen signings.
Old projection: 38.8 catches on 69.4 targets for 558.9 yards and 4.2 TDs
New projection: 49.4 catches on 88.8 targets for 747.4 yards and 4.6 TDs
- In 10 healthy games last season (excluding the game in which he played just 16% of snaps after returning from injury), Chark managed 51 targets, and he posted a 13.1% target share for the season. He has shown the ability to command fantasy-relevant volume as a WR1 before, notching seasons with 118 and 93 targets during his time with the Jaguars. With Thielen on the decline, Chark should be the primary pass catcher for whichever QB the Panthers draft (barring another WR addition, which is still a possibility at this point).
- The offense as a whole may struggle with a rookie QB adapting to the NFL and uninspiring talent across the formation, but Chark is still intriguing for fantasy given his profile as a field-stretching speedster who should have ample volume. He’s in flex consideration with Carolina.
Old projection: N/A (projected as a free agent)
New projection: 43.3 catches on 73.1 targets for 575.6 yards and 4.3 TDs
- Thielen will be 33 years old by the time the 2023 season kicks off. His yards-per-route-run average has fallen in five consecutive seasons and bottomed out at a paltry 1.08 mark in 2022. He’s clearly in the twilight of his career and likely is an underdog to hold No. 2 pass-catcher duties for an entire year (whether it be Hayden Hurst, Terrace Marshall, or a WR draft pick/FA signing that usurps him). Still, the Panthers did sign Thielen to a three-year deal with $14 million guaranteed, so they clearly expect him to turn back the clock somewhat and be a significant contributor. The former Viking will likely have some fantasy-relevant performances, but a declining WR in a bad offense isn’t exactly a recipe for fantasy success, especially given Thielen’s TD dependency over the past few seasons. We’ll see where his ADP settles — everyone is worth it at the right price tag — but it’s hard to get excited about Thielen’s ceiling in 2023.
OTHER PANTHERS PLAYERS
- Hurst could be the Panthers’ second-best pass catcher right off the bat. He impressively posted a 14.3% target share in 2022 despite competing for looks with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and two competent receiving RBs; there’s a real volume ceiling here now that he only has to fend off Chark and Thielen.
- Marshall had a few good games after Chosen Anderson was shipped off last season. He’ll have to survive the draft, but if he does, you could do worse in the final rounds than a 22-year-old who averaged 10.4 yards per target as a sophomore and whose only WR2 competition is an aging vet in the twilight of his career.