THREE REASONS CAM CAN MAKE A COMEBACK
- Newton will be healthier coming into this season.
- Norv Turner’s offense won’t hold Newton back.
- The weapons around Newton are better.
It was obvious to anyone observing Newton closely last season that his surgically-repaired shoulder was a limiting factor. When he begins this season, he will be over a year removed from that surgery, and we should see a healthy Newton with improved offensive weapons around him. Norv Turner’s timing-based passing attack combined with Newton’s rushing ability is very likely to put the quarterback back into the top fantasy finishers at the position.
HIS SHOULDER, THEN AND NOW
One very warm Tennessee Thursday morning in August of 2017, Cam Newton participated in joint practices with the Titans. Observers laughed as he playfully bantered with a vocal fan about his injury and accuracy. Newton was coming off a late offseason surgical procedure to correct a partially torn rotator cuff. Recall that Newton suffered the injury during week 13 of the 2016 season and played through it. He finished with a personal low 65 percent accuracy rating that year.
Newton didn’t throw much that day at training camp, but when he did, his balls lacked the characteristic velocity and accuracy that we have come to expect of him. While Newton didn’t miss a regular season game, it was apparent to onlookers that his shoulder was still bothering him, especially in the earlier stages of the season. This is part of why his accuracy dipped to a subpar 69 percent. For context, that’s 29th best amongst quarterbacks who started at least one game last season.
Newton is now over a year removed from surgery, and there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic that his shoulder won’t be quite the problem it was last year. Our Dr. Jene Bramel breaks down the situation by stating:
Surgery on a quarterback's throwing shoulder is tricky. Specific details on Newton's procedure were never reported, leaving us to assume a relatively minor cleanup procedure around his rotator cuff rather than a more extensive reconstructive surgery. Recovery in 3-4 months is reasonable and Newton's 16-game 2017 season would argue the Panthers felt he was fully healed. And the lack of a follow-up procedure this offseason is also reassuring there were no significant setbacks last season. As with most injuries, however, continued observation of Newton's throwing motion, accuracy, and velocity would be warranted.
NEWTON’S IMPROVED SUPPORTING CAST
It should not be overlooked how the deck was stacked against Cam Newton in terms of supporting talent last year. Greg Olsen suffered a foot injury in week two and did not return until week eleven. He had a setback in that game and did not play again until week thirteen. Olsen had been Newton’s most trusted target to move the chains and to make tough catches over the middle of the field. Despite Kelvin Benjamin being the leading wide receiver in name, he barely made an impact on the field and was eventually traded away inseason to the Buffalo Bills. Devin Funchess was thrust into the lead wide receiver role, and while he did better than expected, it did not make up for the lost production from Benjamin and Olsen. Christian McCaffrey was a helpful addition to an offense in need of pass-catching work, but even his many contributions didn’t significantly lift Newton’s fantasy output.
This year, Greg Olsen returns, with a clean bill of health for his foot and a new contract extension that will likely take him to the end of his career with the Panthers. He will resume the role of being the middle-of-the-field threat and possession receiver to whom Newton looks in critical situations. Devin Funchess showed improvement last year and can continue to build upon that momentum in a contract year. He’ll need to show more consistency. Yet, even if he can produce only close to last year’s totals, there are others in the offense to pick up the slack. Christian McCaffrey did it all last season. As a rookie, he lined up out wide, in the slot, and in the backfield. He had a Panthers rookie running back record of 80 receptions, showing there’s potential for more as a pass catcher. As was detailed more extensively in this Spotlight piece, the addition of wide receiver D.J. Moore has the potential to make an instant impact for the offense. His abilities to separate deep and do damage by running after the reception are two things the offense has needed for quite some time. It will give the unit and Newton a boost. The team has made minor additions in deep threat Torrey Smith and slot receiver Jarius Wright. Both are experienced role players who could also prove to be advantageous for Newton and the offense as a whole. If second-round selection Curtis Samuel can provide even small production this year, it would also be a boon to the offense. Looking at the weapons at Newton’s disposal inspires confidence.
NORV TURNER IS A NET GAIN
As was documented earlier, Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula’s unit was not at full strength last year. Yet, his issues with decision-making, timing, and rhythm also can be blamed for the team sputtering. It ultimately caused Shula to lose his job. The team hired Norv Turner in the offseason to be the new Panthers’ Offensive Coordinator. Many wonder what Turner’s offense will demand of Newton and whether will it be a good fit.
For those worried about Newton losing his rushing upside, put those fears aside. Unlike Mike Shula, Norv Turner won’t ask Newton to change his spots and abandon his rushing ways. Immediately after being hired, Turner said:
He’s incredible as a runner, he’s just an amazing player at that position. There are two ways that he ends up carrying the ball: Designed runs, and then he’s made a lot of plays where he’s kept the ball in passing situations or when he drops back to throw and then the opportunity to run opens up. I think that’s a real threat to defenses, defenses are really bothered by that. … He’s always got to have that as part of his game. ... I think it’s always going to be a part of what we do.
Instead, he’ll want Newton to get the ball out quickly and rely on the timing and precision of the scheme’s receiving options to create open passing windows. Shorter passes should lead to increased completions, taking less physical punishment, cutting down on interceptions, and ultimately, better passing production.
Cam Newton had a lot go wrong for his 2017 campaign, including the effects of a late shoulder surgery, an injury to Greg Olsen, and the sudden trade of the team’s top wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. This offseason has given a reeling team a chance to get healthy, bring in an offensive coordinator who can help Newton in the passing game, and gain some extra offensive weapons, particularly D.J. Moore. All of these things have the potential to make Newton’s fantasy season a more successful one.
THOUGHTS FROM THE FOOTBALLGUYS MESSAGE BOARD
pantherclub sees a path to Cam being a top option, but doubts he gets there:
"Tough year for him, but yeah, he still made the playoffs. He had no receiving help and his offensive line was probably as bad as it has ever been. I guess they upgraded a bit, but I’m still not sure if it is enough to give him time in the pocket. Fantasy wise he probably isn’t a top-tier quarterback. That could easily change if the new wide receivers mesh with him, the offensive line gets healthy and finds their mojo, and Norv Turner’s offense caters to his strengths. A lot of ‘ifs’ so I probably would put him in a holding pattern come draft time.”
TheDirtyWord believes Cam is a value at his current price:
"I think there is an opportunity here with Cam at his current ADP to realize some real value. FFPC has Newton (QB7) being drafted only 9 slots ahead of Kirk Cousins (QB8). Consider that Newton outrushed Derrick Henry (yards & touchdowns) 754/6 to 744/5 while really holding back during the first five games of the season coming off shoulder surgery. His 2015 MVP season does feel like the exception in his career stat line, but his floor week-to-week is so consistently high still. This year, he gets a healthy Greg Olsen, a first-round toy in Moore, and a more experienced Christian McCaffrey. A lot to like here.”
travdogg thinks there is potential for a rebound from Newton:
“Newton is perpetually underrated, other than going into 2016. He's my QB3, and I could easily see him being QB1. My dislike of the Norv hire is the only real flaw I see. I expect a year similar to last year, where he finished as QB2 in my leagues, with the potential for better passing numbers due to Olsen's return, and more big plays, as Newton was arguably more conservative as a passer than he's ever been before.”
Mike Tagliere of FantasyPros projects a favorable year for Newton:
“After the failed experiment of trying to dial back Newton's rushing attempts in 2016, it was good to see them unleash him again in 2017. If you take away Newton's ability to run, he wouldn't be a quarterback in this league very long. Fortunately, it seems the Panthers figured that out, making Newton an elite fantasy option once again, rushing for a career-high 754 yards. The upgraded weaponry around him doesn't hurt, either.”
CBS Sports points out Newton going later as more reward than risk:
“Cam Newton proved last year that he's one of the better Fantasy quarterbacks in the league. Now he'll get the chance to improve under the guidance of veteran offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Newton could use it -- he has one season with 25-plus touchdown passes and one with more than 4,000 passing yards. If Turner figures out a way for Newton to become more efficient while also utilizing his rushing skills, we could wind up with another MVP-caliber season. Newton will have to fend off injuries and develop more consistency because he has posted six games with 20-plus Fantasy points in each of his past two seasons. Adding rookie D.J. Moore to his receiving corps will help. While it's not a cinch Newton will come through in either of those categories, the reality is that his Round 7 price tag eliminates much of the risk. If you can take him then, particularly after the likes of Deshaun Watson and Drew Brees, then you're doing fine.”
Kyle Dvorchak of FantasyLabs advocates selecting Newton because of his high floor:
“Newton has the weapons and the opportunity to put up big numbers in 2018, and even if he doesn’t quite return to MVP form, he’s one of the highest-floor picks on the board.”