Spotlight: Cam Newton
posted by Jason Wood on Aug 4th
Jason Wood's thoughts
Last year in one of my favorite leagues, my good friend (and the league's commissioner) selected Cam Newton in the 12th round of our 20 round draft. He was ripped to shreds. After all, why did he need another quarterback (Newton was the third on his roster), particularly in the 12th round when he had so many other positions to fill out? And even if he could justify carrying three quarterbacks, why "waste" a pick on a rookie quarterback on a terrible team with no weapons? It was one of the major sticking points of the night, and he took flak from just about everyone - myself included.
You know how this story ends. My friend ended up rolling to our league's title (he also made great picks like Rob Gronkowski, Jordy Nelson and LeSean McCoy) with Newton under center. His first two quarterbacks - Sam Bradford and Kevin Kolb - were complete busts and he was able to use those positions to add depth elsewhere.
Needless to say, this personal anecdote probably typifies a lot of fantasy leagues last season. Newton was not only one of the most surprising fantasy stars last year, he was arguably one of the best value picks in the history of the hobby.
- 310 completions
- 517 attempts
- 60% completion rate
- 4,051 yards
- 21 touchdowns
- 17 interceptions
- 126 rushes
- 706 rushing yards
- 14 rushing touchdowns
- 431 fantasy points
- QB5 ranking
As one can imagine, Newton's performance went so far beyond expectations, it truly represented an all-time best performance.
Best Rookie QB Performances in NFL History
Best Fantasy Seasons by a Quarterback of Any Age
To summarize, Cam Newton had the best rookie fantasy season in NFL history, and was almost 60% better than the 2nd best rookie season in history! As if that weren't impressive enough, his 2011 season ranks as the 7th best fantasy season by a quarterback of any age and experience.
What Can He Do For An Encore?
Newton has set unreal expectations for himself entering 2012. His average draft position stands at 19th overall and QB5. What's important to remember is that Newton doesn't have to match last year's heroics to deliver fantasy value. He just has to deliver QB5 or better numbers. Let's take a look at the 5th ranked fantasy quarterbacks over the last ten seasons:
Newton could suffer a 20% decline in his fantasy output and still be the odds on favorite to finish as QB5 or better.
Bifurcating Newton's Game - Downside of the Rushing, Upside of the Passing
Newton ran for an inhuman 14 touchdowns last year, and Newton's skeptics believe he could be due for a precipitous fall off in year two. One thing is certain, rushing touchdowns are VERY hard to predict. And history is NOT on Newton's side.
Quarterbacks have run for 7 or more rushing touchdowns only 23 times in NFL history. As you can see, everyone has scored fewer times in the next season. On average, rushing totals have fallen more than 50% year-over-year. Now before you start yelling at me saying, "Cam is different!"...I'm not arguing with you. It's up to YOU to decide whether Newton is going to break the mold. He has the talent, but if you're being honest with yourselves, so have quite a few of these other quarterbacks.
Why A Big Drop in Rushing TDs Might Not Be A Big Deal
Let's say you're convinced Newton's rushing TDs are going to fall off a cliff; what if I were to tell you it STILL MIGHT be worth drafting Newton at his current ADP? Consider the following scenario, let's say Cam Newton put up exactly the same numbers this year, but his rushing TDs went from last year's 14 scores to ZERO?
- 4,051 passing yards
- 21 pass TDs
- 17 interceptions
- 706 rushing yards
- 0 rushing TDs
- 344 fantasy points
Newton could score zero times on the ground, and if he can just maintain the rest of his stat line, he would still score 344 fantasy points - which is more than he needs to finish QB5 in a typical season!
Now let's step back into reality. Newton isn't going to score 14 touchdowns, but he's also not going to score zero times. Whether it's 10 scores or 5 scores will matter, but not enough to keep him from the top 5 at his position.
Don't Forget About His Improvement As A Passer
The flipside of worrying about his rushing TDs falling is the expectation that his passing skills will improve. How many quarterbacks plateau as a rookie? Newton didn't even have a standard training camp last season to learn the offense. This year he's going to make better decisions, the game is going to slow down, and he'll have better rapport with his receivers. Newton could EASILY improve his passing numbers, which would at least partially offset the likelihood of fewer rushing scores.
- Newton shattered the record books last year, delivering not only the best rookie quarterback season in NFL history, but the 7th best fantasy season of all time (of any age and experience)
- Newton showed elite athleticism but also a lot more polish as a passer than most expected. This year he should markedly improve as a passer and decision maker, as he'll have a full offseason working with his teammates and coaches
- Even if Newton failed to score a rushing TD in 2012, he would likely be a top 5 fantasy quarterback as long as he can maintain the rest of his stat line
- The Panthers haven't added anyone of note (unless you count Louis Murphy) to the receiving corps
- The offensive line continues to have question marks, with Carolina parting ways with Jeff Otah in early August
- Newton's propensity to run puts him in greater danger of a serious injury, at least in some people's minds
No one had any reason to expect Cam Newton to do what he did in 2011. This year, many are wondering if he can possibly match last year's heroics. I think that's asking the wrong question. I would instead ask, does he HAVE to match them to justify his draft position? As long as Newton shows some growth as a passer (and why wouldn't he?), he could suffer a significant step down in his rushing TD output and remain an every week, elite fantasy starter. Newton shouldn't be the first quarterback off the board, but I have no objections about him being an early round choice as your every week starter, either.
Quotations from the message board threadTo view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.
Some people are big believers in taking portions of a season and pro-rating statistical production over 16 games to make a point. Some are not. I fall more into the former category when I can take a sizable consistent stretch that also generally leads to the completion of a season.
Cam Newton took the NFL by storm. Pre-season games were dissected and in some cases torn apart. I remember a pre-season 30+ yard completion being debunked because the commentator remarked that the play should have been a touchdown, but the throw was behind the receiver. Make no mistake, most 'in the know' people thought the NFL was going to teach Cam Newton a rough lesson. This did not occur.
With that said, the Panthers usage of Newton during the first 4 games of the season versus that last 12 bears some scrutiny. During the first 4 games, Newton attempted an average of 40.8 passes/game. Over the next 12, this average fell to 29.5, a close to 27% reduction. In addition, his YPA came down from 8.5 to 7.5. No doubt these are respectable numbers that don't even take into account his impact in the running game and inside the 5 where he essentially is already the best goal line runner in the NFL.
But are we expecting his passing numbers (4051 Passing Yards, 21 TD's, 7.8 YPA) to improve just because he's in Year 2? This has not been the case for Matt Ryan or Sam Bradford...two QB's who unexpectedly played well as rookies only to run into turbulence in Year 2.
The Panthers, despite Newton's lofty production most definitely shifted away from having him handle the ball 49 plays/game. The last 12 games saw this number decrease to 37.25. If I'm guessing, a happy medium will be in the 40-41 plays/game if only because at 49, the Panthers are simply not diversifying their offense enough given some of the pieces they have. Plus, despite his imposing size - exposure is exposure and the Panthers would do well to not overexpose their best player.
Despite Newton's prowess inside the 10, I can't see the Panthers relying on him as heavily there (Newton accounted for 9 of the 15 TD's here) when Williams & Stewart would seem to be able to carry some of this load. Plus, I can see this being a counter to teams who will target Newton in this area of the field. Overall, my feeling is that Newton's ceiling will be capped by the Panthers usage of him and also because I do expect some leveling off in terms of how prolific he could be and I expect that he'll be less productive in FF2012 than he was in 2011. But he's still a Top 5-6 QB.fightingillini said:
I am not sure why anyone wouldn't believe Newton is a top 5 QB this year. You know that he's going to get 500+ yards on the ground, along with 3700+ pass yards. While he isn't going to score 14 TDs on the ground, he's a pretty safe bet for 6-7. All he needs to do is cut down on the interceptions and throw a couple more TD passes and he will be right there as a top 5 QB. The CAR offense will run through Newton.
3850 pass yds, 23 TD, 16 Int
675 rush yds, 7 TD
These stats are equivalent to 4600 yds passing, 40 TD, and 12 Int with a scoring system of 1 pt per 25 yds passing, 1 pt per 10 yards rushing, 4 pts per TD pass and 6 pts per TD run....-2 pts per INT. 4600-40-12 are MVP numbers. Now if passing TDs are 6pts instead of 4 pts, Newton's projection would equal 4200-30-12. So Newton is a top 5 QB easily when TD passes are 4 pts, and is more of a top 7-8 QB with all TDs 6 pts. Most leagues score TD passes less than TD runs, so in most leagues Newton is a top 5 QB.Modog814 said:
[On why people are projecting a big cut in Newton's rushing TDs...]Because they started to eliminate the Newton runs last year toward the end of the season. Here are runs inside the 10 yard line last year. Over the first 8 games Newton got 15 out of the 24 runs inside the 10. He converted 5 of them, while the others converted 3, so both 33%. In the last 8 weeks, Newton got only 7 of the 17 runs inside the 10. He converted 4 (57%) and the others also converted 4 (40%). Also notice that by the end of the year, you saw the distribution go almost to 50/50, and I expect this trend to continue and ultimately be closer to 40/60.
Cam Newton projections
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