Fantasy Impact of Dave Canales Hire on Bryce Young, Adam Thielen, and Jonathan Mingo

The Carolina Panthers hired Dave Canales after he led the Buccaneers' offense to a strong season -- should fantasy football managers take note?

Dave Canales had been in offensive locker rooms for over a decade prior to being brought in by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the creativity he brought to the table made him a prime candidate that the Carolina Panthers landed on to lead their rebuild.

Calling the Panthers an afterthought for fantasy football managers in 2023 might be the understatement of the year, but with the 42-year-old Canales taking over, there is dynasty optimism and even a 2024 sleeper candidate.

Dave Canales’ Impact on Bryce Young

It’s only natural to look at Canales propelling a former top overall pick in Baker Mayfield to a career season in passing yards, completion percentage, and touchdowns in 2023 and bumping Bryce Young up your rankings.

Be careful.

While the résumé of impacting NFL offenses is obviously a plus for Young to have in his head coach, this situation is very different.

First of all, Mayfield had 72 games on his professional résumé before Canales got his hands on him, a level of experience that Young simply doesn’t have. In those games, we all learned what Mayfield could/couldn’t do, and that allowed Canales to sculpt an offense around his signal-caller.

I don’t think what the Buccaneers did in 2023 was a fluke, and that is why I’ve elevated Young to a top-20 quarterback in my dynasty rankings, but adjusting expectations in the short term is too optimistic for my liking.

Mayfield (and Canales) entered a ready-made situation in Tampa Bay that had a chain-moving receiver in Chris Godwin nearing his production prime and one in Mike Evans, who had nothing but 1,000-yard seasons on his résumé in addition to four years with at least a dozen touchdowns.

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The 2023 Panthers were led by a 33-year-old slot receiver, a rookie, and a free agent who was joining his third team in as many seasons.

Given the age curve for Adam Thielen, projected development for Jonathan Mingo, and the likeliness that DJ Chark is the version of himself that we’ve seen for four straight seasons — the support around Young figures to net out as even from last year and well below the ‘23 Buccaneers.

Canales’ Impact on the Run Game

One thing that Canales did in his coaching debut was identify and feature specific strengths. It sounds simple, but it’s not as common as you’d like to think. He entered Tampa Bay understanding that Mayfield throws a nice deep ball and that Evans is as good down the field as anyone.

Now, you can only scheme up so much, but it was clear that the Bucs opened the 2023 season with a clear goal.

Evans through Week 3:

  • 32.6% target share
  • 54.9% air yard share
  • WR5 in total points

Why do I mention this here? We don’t yet know what Young’s true strengths are, but if we are projecting for 2024 based on what we saw in 2023, it’s safe to say that stretching the field is not something Canales is going to prioritize.

Over the past decade, here are the bottom five signal-callers in terms of completion percentage on passes thrown 10+ yards downfield (minimum 160 such attempts:

  • Bryce Young: 39.3%
  • Derek Carr: 39.3%
  • Drew Lock: 38.8%
  • Blake Bortles: 38.2%
  • DeShone Kizer: 32.7%

If harnessed, this flaw can be overcome (or ignored; see: peak YOLO Bortles), but this isn’t exactly a list of stable fantasy producers. With that in mind, could we see the running back position peppered with short targets to mask this weakness?

Rachaad White led the position in routes run, allowing him to finish as a top-four producer at the position in both catches and receiving yards.

Thomas Brown was not shy about featuring Chuba Hubbard after he was given the play-calling duties down the stretch, and with Hubbard catching multiple passes in nine of 11 games to end the season, there’s a path to the low-end RB2 conversation if he resumes his role as the bell cow.

Canales’ Impact on Adam Thielen and Jonathan Mingo

Those shallow targets could go to the running backs or be funneled toward the ever-consistent Thielen.

The veteran receiver posted a 7.7 aDOT last season, a rate that was 18.1% lower than his previous career low.

His hands are reliable and figure to be a part of the growth of Young as Canales aims to get his sophomore QB some confidence but with a yards-per-catch average that has declined in four straight seasons, counting on him at this point in his career as anything more than a low-ceiling depth piece on your 2024 roster is aggressive.

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Mingo is an interesting option, especially if you, like I, are under the assumption that a new head coach will want to evaluate his young pieces. Mingo’s rookie season wasn’t consistent by any means, but we did see him earn 38 targets from Weeks 10-14, a number that ranked 15th in the league and topped Thielen over that stretch.

At cost, Mingo is the more appealing option in 2024 for me. I’m in no hurry to roster a Panthers receiver, but with limited overall offensive expectations for this team, I prefer spending down for the player with his best football ahead of him as opposed to the veteran who routinely projects as WR30-35.

With the fantasy football season behind us, why not start preparing for your rookie drafts with our dynasty rookie rankings? Additionally, as you look to improve your team heading into 2024, our dynasty trade calculator can help you find the perfect deal to boost your championship chances.

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