The speculative list of fringe players who would’ve made the Panthers preseason all-overhype team
Updated: Aug 24, 2020
With the pandemic scuttling the preseason, we can only guess at which long shot players would’ve broken out against their opponents’ fourth-string schlubs.
By Mick Smiley
One of the biggest disappointments about the NFL canceling the preseason is we as fans are being denied our annual ritual of wildly overhyping fringe players who play well in mostly meaningless action. As obsessive Panthers fans we have a contractual obligation to adopt our favorite undrafted free agent or hopeless reclamation project before the season starts, then overanalyze everything he does over four weeks of exhibition football.
We rejoice with every tackle for loss he racks up against the opponents fourth string, then sorrow when he gets unceremoniously cut when rosters are trimmed down. But sometimes our guy defies the odds and makes the team, thus allowing us to proudly state throughout the year, “I just knew he was going to break out!” Most of the fun isn’t watching the player succeed as it is allowing us to remind ourselves how much smarter we are than the average fan. Since this year we won’t have the experience of jumping on the preseason bandwagon of guys we’re hoping break out, my question to the CSR community is this:
Which random fringe player would’ve been this year’s unexpected preseason MVP?
Here’s my short list:
Jordan Kunaszyk, LB - The 2019 UDFA looked good in last year’s preseason by unexpectedly racking up 18 tackles in four games. He ultimately made the roster and played in nine regular season games with seven defensive snaps, 166 special teams snaps, and seven tackles. With the experience he gained last year coupled with the Panthers depth issues at linebacker, I think he would’ve shown out this preseason and I would’ve been pumping him up like a tech stock in the early 2000s.
Temarrick Hemingway, TE - A 2016 sixth round pick of the Los Angeles Rams, Hemingway appeared in eight games as a rookie on special teams duty. In 2018 he appeared in five games for the Denver Broncos doing the same. In those two seasons the tight end had more tackles (two) than receptions (zero). He signed with the Panthers last year and in Carolina’s four preseason games he had five receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown, ultimately earning a spot on the practice squad. With Ian Thomas as the Panthers only viable receiving tight end, I think most of us would’ve been pulling for Hemingway to write a preseason masterpiece.
Omar Bayless, WR - The Panthers signed Bayless as an undrafted free agent after he put up 1,653 receiving yards with 17 touchdowns at Arkansas State last year. His 40-yard dash time of 4.62 seconds caused him to fall off draft boards, but the dude can ball. At 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds he also has an NFL body. I could’ve seen him having a nice preseason this year against low-end defensive backs where his lack of speed wouldn’t be as glaring as in the regular season.
PJ Walker, QB - The former Temple quarterback is already familiar with Matt Rhule and has some professional experience, too. He was originally signed in 2017 as an undrafted free agent by the Indianapolis Colts and spent a couple of years bouncing around their practice squad and preseason teams. Last year the dual-threat quarterback made the jump to the XFL where he led the league in both passing yards and touchdowns. The Panthers fan base is generally down on Will Greer so Walker’s the shiny new toy in Charlotte. I’m not the first person at CSR to predict PJ would’ve had a great preseason as Jaxon predicted the same back in March. You know, back when we thought there would be a preseason.
I’m most bummed about not being able to watch PJ Walker lead the offense. With as disorganized as preseason defenses can be, I could imagine Walker making some exciting plays with both his arm and his legs. But we’ll never know.
Now it’s your turn, CSR faithful. Who made your imaginary preseason list of overhyped, random preseason MVPs? Record your breakout candidate(s) in the comments section so you can go back throughout the year and show everyone just how smart you were in predicting which fringe player was going to break out this year.