Make sure to check out all of our other team award predictions here.
MVP: Christian McCaffrey
Well, since McCaffrey totaled over 2,300 yards from scrimmage last season with mainly Kyle Allen leading the offense, I have no issue naming him the 2020 Panthers MVP. Not only is McCaffrey one of the most dynamic rushers in the NFL, but he has the receiving skills to make himself one of the most valuable and versatile players in the entire league and definitely the most important player on the Panthers.
Offensive Player: Teddy Bridgewater
After being an extremely effective replacement for Drew Brees in 2019, Bridgewater was rewarded with the starting quarterback job in Carolina. Bridgewater threw for 1,384 yards during his time as the starter in New Orleans in 2019, only throwing two interceptions to his nine touchdowns. After a dynamic start to his career and a crippling knee injury while in Minnesota, Bridgewater will look to revive his career and prove that he is a top tier starter in the NFL.
Defensive Player: Shaq Thompson
At 26 years old, Thompson has emerged as one of the top inside linebackers in the NFL. With the early retirement of Luke Kuechly, Thompson will take over as the leader of the Panthers defensive unit. Even with Kuechly playing in 2019, Thompson had over 100 total tackles. He clearly emerged as a leader and showed tremendous growth in reading offenses and adjusting on the fly. Look for Thompson to be a top-five tackler in the NFL, taking advantage of the gaps created by rookie Derrick Brown.
Offensive Rookie: Omar Bayless
On an interesting note, the Panthers did not draft a single player that was an offensive player. Bayless was signed to an undrafted free agent contract after the draft. After being at Arkansas State for five years, Bayless could easily make an impact early and often in Carolina. Bayless had 1,653 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns in his senior year and showed clear improvement since his junior year. With his big frame, look for Bayless to be the number three outside receiver for the Panthers.
Defensive Rookie: Derrick Brown
Coming out of Auburn, Brown was one of the most heralded prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft. A dominant inside tackle with the ability to wreak havoc in the rushing game and the passing game, Brown will start immediately in Carolina. With a solid linebacking core and a younger secondary, Brown will be key in creating chaos in the backfield that their defensive unit can take advantage of.
Biggest Surprise: Eli Apple
Coming out of OSU, Apple was one of the most highly regarded defensive back prospects. After mediocre years in New York and New Orleans, Apple has lost popularity among NFL circles. Although Apple lacked playmaking ability in 2019, his 58 total tackles were a career-high. He showed his vast improvement in some of his weakest areas. With a new start in Carolina, Apple will be able to rely on his natural playmaking instincts and maintain his reliable role in the screen game and outside the rushing game.
Biggest Disappointment: D.J. Moore
To be clear, I do not think that Moore will be an overall disappointment. However, I do not see the rapid growth that is generally projected for Moore. At 23 years old, Moore posted 1,175 receiving yards in 2019. Moore has the ability to play in the slot and outside, but does not have a clear placement in the Panthers offense. Although his versatility is valuable in the Panthers offense, with the amount of other receiving weapons available there will not be enough of an increase in targets for Moore to exponentially increase his production.
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