Pat Yasinskas is doing his annual "Top 25 players" segment for the NFC South on ESPN.com (well I'm not sure if it's really an "annual" thing, but I know he did it last year). It started on June 17th but we haven't had our first Panther until Friday - Steve Smith at #21.
We continue my NFC South Top 25 with No. 21:
Steve Smith, wide receiver, Carolina Panthers
What he did in 2012: He caught 73 passes for 1,174 yards and four touchdowns.
Why he’s No. 21 in 2013: Smith is 34 now and logic says he should be slowing down. But I’m not buying into that because Smith has been defying logic his entire career. The Panthers won six of their final nine games last year and it’s no coincidence that Smith’s four touchdowns all came in that span. The other thing that happened in that span was that the coaching staff went back to a more conventional style of offense and let quarterback Cam Newton be a quarterback while letting the running backs do the running. I’m expecting even more of that this season and that should only benefit Smith because he is Newton’s go-to receiver.
Fair assessment? I don't necessarily hate the ranking as it is, but I'll have to wait and see who he ranks above Steve in the coming weeks. It'll be hard to really make a compelling case as to who should be where though, since you're working with every position which can make things tricky. If it was a positions' ranking then players would be a lot easier to rank.
If anyone is curious as to who has made the list thus far, here's a link:
The actual link to the blog doesn't seem to be getting updated (it's only populated #s 24 and 25), so I just linked to the search results; they're at the very top.
My only concern though is if Steve Smith is the FIRST Panther on the list, we may not have too many on there...I'm optimistic Hardy/CJ will get some love (assuming freaking Da'Quan Bowers made the list), Cam and Kuechly of course, then the only other possibilities I can think of would be Kalil and possibly Olsen. Well that's likely anywhere from 5-7 Panthers so I guess that's not too bad....roughly a quarter. I think Star should be on this list - if it's about PROJECTIONS - but I wouldn't be surprised if he leaves off all rookies.