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Player Spotlight: Cam Newton

A detailed look at Cam Newton's fantasy prospects for 2016.

NEWTON GOES NUCLEAR

Cam Newton took his place among the great quarterbacks of the game in 2015. What he accomplished last was not only astounding, it was also historic. When number one Panther’s wideout Kelvin Benjamin went down with a season-ending injury, many predicted doom for Newton’s statistical output. He quieted his doubters by surpassing his career bests in passing touchdowns (35) and interceptions (10). He also became the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 30 scores and also rush for double-digit touchdowns. These amazing feats were enough to earn him both NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year honors.

SUPERMAN CAM

At a press conference before the Super Bowl in January, Newton said his critics were scared because, “...they haven't seen nothing that they can compare me to.” He certainly is one of a kind. Cam is one of the only true dual-threat quarterbacks playing today. Only Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers rival Newton in both air and ground output. Of those three, Cam is the only one with the indomitable height of 6 foot 5 inches and weight of 250 pounds who also can scamper 40 yards in 4.6 seconds.

Not only is Newton a metric anomaly, but he has a more than sufficient supporting cast. The receiving corps looks better this year on paper. Not only will Newton have Kelvin Benjamin returning from injury, all of the receiving cast from last season (Ted Ginn, Corey Brown, Devin Funchess, Greg Olsen) are intact. Funchess in particular is interesting, because he’s likely to win the number two job opposite Benjamin according to beat writer David Newton. Pushing him into action last year may have accelerated his growth. With Benjamin likely drawing the best corner, Funchess may have a little more room to work. The Panthers also added intriguing metric prospect and UDFA Keyaris Garrett, who could  prove to be a gem for the team in time.

Newton may get even more chances to throw the ball to these receivers this season. Losing Josh Norman to Washington was not an insignificant blow to the defense. If they are indeed worse than in 2015, Newton will have to compensate by throwing more often. Add to that the fact that Jonathan Stewart continues to age and seems to miss significant time each season with injury, and you have a recipe for Newton once again having to put the offense on his back.

KNOCKS ON NEWTON

Though it feels like nitpicking, there are just a couple of things that one can find to be concerned about with regard to Cam Newton. Since the time he entered the league, Newton has been reckless in the way he uses his body. Newton often takes on defenders for extra yards and dives headlong for touchdowns.Though his large frame has held up pretty well to this point, continued punishment could lead to Newton being sidelined by significant injury.

Touchdown regression is likely for Newton this year. As was mentioned before, his prior season’s touchdown totals were unprecedented. He may get close, but it would be very improbable for both his rushing and receiving touchdowns to stay completely static. If he does have increased pass attempts (and ergo, yards) as was earlier postulated, it may help to make up for a decrease in overall touchdown scoring.

POSITIVES:

  • Cam Newton is one of the few options who scores often on the ground and through the air.

  • He has an improved receiving unit in 2016.

  • There may be increased opportunity for Newton to pass this year.

NEGATIVES:

  • Newton could get injured if he continues to be reckless with his body.

  • Touchdown regression may impact Newton’s 2016 fantasy output.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Cam is usually the first quarterback off the board in redraft leagues, usually going in the late second or early third round. While waiting until later rounds at quarterback is a viable strategy, it’s hard to find fault with a team for taking arguably the best quarterback in the draft at this price point.

As for dynasty leagues, Newton has cemented himself as one of the best young quarterbacks in the game. He is currently a fourth-round startup pick. In one quarterback leagues, he’s often not worth the premium price you’ll have to pay to acquire him. Instead, it is better to piece together production at the position with buy-low candidates or shoot for a young stud (Jameis Winston comes to mind) whose value has not yet peaked.

2016 PROJECTIONS

JASON WOOD’S PROJECTIONS

G

PYD

Y/ATT

TD

INT

RSH

YD

TD

FPT

16

3970

7.38

29

13

120

600

8

409.50

DAVID DODDS’ PROJECTIONS

G

PYD

Y/ATT

TD

INT

RSH

YD

TD

FPT

16

3569

7.39

27

13

115

598

7

375.25

OTHER VIEWPOINTS

CBS Sports’ Heath Cummings argues that he would select Newton over Rodgers in certain leagues:

“I'd expect both of these quarterbacks to be fantastic in 2016, but I'll take Newton by a hair in leagues that award six points for pass touchdowns. Anything less than six points per pass TD give an even bigger boost to Newton and I'd draft him a round before any other quarterback.”

Sports Illustrated has doubts that Newton can repeat his very special 2015 in fantasy football:

While Newton may still be getting better as a real-life quarterback, is it even possible for him to do so in the fantasy realm? He threw for 35 touchdowns on 495 attempts last year, a 7.1% touchdown rate that was the 18th highest in a single season since 1984. Newton also ran for 10 touchdowns and 636 yards. That marked the ninth time since the merger that a quarterback ran for at least eight touchdowns and 500 yards, and just the third that one hit 10 scores and 600 yards. The other two seasons belong to Newton and Daunte Culpepper. All of this is to say that Newton essentially maxed out his production last year. He’s undeniably great, but don’t expect a repeat of 2015.

NFL.Com’s Michael Fabiano thinks there are better values to be had in the late round at quarterback:

“Don't get me wrong, I'm not predicting Newton to be a bust. Not at all. An athlete with his skill set at the quarterback position is golden in fantasy football. But when we talk about depth, supply, demand and relative value, taking Newton in the first round (or among the first 40 overall picks for that matter) doesn't make a whole lot of sense.”