Strickly Panthers: Rosario a fantasy possibility

Another inch, and Panthers tight end Dante Rosario would have made a catch that could have turned around Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Another inch, and Rosario might have turned the heads of some fantasy football fanatics as well.

Rosario looked like a wide receiver while speeding past Tampa Bay's defense into the open, but he couldn't quite haul in a pass at the 10-yard line that likely would have resulted in a 40-yard touchdown and a 14-14 tie late in the first half of what turned out to be a 20-7 loss for the Panthers.

"It hit my fingertips. I wish I would have been an inch faster," Rosario said. "There are plays to be made. We're moving the ball. If a few things go a little differently for us – which we control – it's a different game."

Rosario has caught the eye of fantasy football players in the past, but he's never caught on as a fantasy starter.

After Rosario saw limited action on offense as a rookie in 2007, he burst onto the scene to open the 2008 season, catching seven balls for 96 yards at San Diego -- highlighted by the game-winning touchdown on the final play.

Numerous fantasy owners snagged Rosario off the waiver wire, but he didn't score another touchdown the rest of the season, and tight end teammate Jeff King ended up with roughly the same numbers.

Last year, the Panthers added another capable receiver to the tight end group in Gary Barnidge – again good for Carolina but bad for anyone targeting Panthers' tight ends for their fantasy team.

In two games this year, however, Rosario has all five of the catches for Carolina's tight ends, for 61 yards. With just three wide receivers active versus the Buccaneers, Rosario lined up in the slot several times.

"We were eager for that responsibility," Rosario said. "I like playing all over the place – in the backfield, at the tight end position. The more you can do, the better."

Rosario is capable of doing plenty, but so are King and Barnidge, so it's still questionable whether Rosario will get enough chances to be a consideration from a fantasy standpoint.

If, however, new starting quarterback Jimmy Clausen seems to favor Rosario, and he continues to line up out wide, he could develop into an intriguing bye-week replacement. And if Clausen gets the passing game going and a coach's decision or injury opens the door for Rosario to consistently take more snaps, who knows?

When Rosario does get the ball, he makes things happen. Of his 55 career receptions, 38 have yielded a first down or touchdown.


GOODY TWO SHOES: In many ways, being a good fantasy option is as much about opportunity as it is football ability. That holds for Rosario, and the same can be said for Panthers running back Mike Goodson.

Goodson has impressed early in his second season out of Texas A&M, ranking second on the team with five catches for 64 yards in addition to several explosive kickoff returns, including a 45-yarder.

"He's a very talented back," head coach John Fox said. "We've got a few of them. They all have roles, and I think his has increased because his development has increased.

"I think he's a guy you'll see more and more as we move forward."

But from a fantasy standpoint, how much more? DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are firmly entrenched ahead of Goodson, so it seems unlikely that Goodson will get enough snaps to consistently make a fantasy difference.

But if Williams or Stewart were to miss time because of injury, Goodson appears much more prepared than he was as a rookie to be a difference-maker.


SLOW STARTERS: Is your fantasy team, like the Panthers, in an 0-2 hole to start the season?

If so, don't fret. There's still hope.

While, on average, just one of the NFL's eight winless teams will wind up in the playoffs, the odds are better in many fantasy formats. In a 12-team league with six playoff spots for example, if four teams are 2-0, four are 1-1 and four are 0-2, expect one winless team to join two of the .500 teams and three of the unbeatens in the playoffs.

If you're 0-2 but your roster is filled with proven players off to slow starts, don't panic. If you've got obvious holes to fill, be aggressive. Don't be afraid to target high-risk, high-reward players and be willing to sacrifice depth if it gives you a better chance to get back in the race before it's too late.

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