Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton made one of the always frustrating fantasy football flips from the 2015 to 2016 seasons. After being the NFL Most Valuable Player in 2015 and leading his team (and many fantasy teams) to the Super Bowl, he took a big step back in 2016.
After scoring an absurd 45 touchdowns (35 passing and 10 rushing) in 2015, with 3,837 passing yards and 636 rushing yards, Newton was understandably a popular first-round fantasy pick the next year. Those totals above wound up equaling out to 389.08 points on FantasyData.com, making him the league’s top fantasy football scoring QB. He then followed that up with 254.26 total fantasy points in 2016, ranking him as the No. 17 scoring QB.
That’s a massive drop-off for a player who looked as exceptional as Newton did at one point. After going from being elite and earning the MVP crown, the question becomes, what’s next for Newton in the 2017 season?
There’s an obvious reason to believe that Cam could have a bounce back season. But, there’s also plenty of reason to believe that he might not jump back to the elite level he showed the NFL in 2015. Let’s start with the positives to Newton’s fantasy stock.
Positive: Rushing Ability
Newton’s ability to take off and run whenever he chooses gives him the type of upside that very few quarterbacks possess both from an in-game situation and a fantasy situation. Throughout his first six seasons in the NFL, he’s totaled 3,566 rushing yards with 48 touchdowns. That alone gives him the type of upside that can win you a fantasy football league.
Negative: Lack of Top-Tier Targets
Kelvin Benjamin has the type of upside that leave people salivating, but he took a step back in his sophomore season. Last year, he totaled just 63 catches for 941 yards and seven touchdowns. Those numbers aren’t bad, but they aren’t top-tier No. 1 wideout numbers. Aside from Benjamin, Newton lost his favorite deep threat in Ted Ginn Jr., which may wind up really hurting.
Rookie Curtis Samuel and second-year pro Devin Funchess are going to be intriguing options, but it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to immediately become the type of weapons the Panthers need.
Positive: Addition of Christian McCaffrey
Christian McCaffrey’s ability to catch passes out of the backfield as well as split out wide when needed is going to be a welcomed sight for Newton’s fantasy value. While McCaffrey may not see a heavy workload while splitting carries with Jonathan Stewart, he’s the perfect third-down running back for Newton. There are obvious reasons to believe that the Panthers’ first-round draft pick in 2017 is a player who helps Cam’s fantasy stock.
Negative: Teams Game Planning for Newton
This is probably what hurt Newton the most last season. He had six games where he threw for under 200 yards and scored one or fewer total touchdowns in nine games. Those numbers don’t equate to major fantasy success and are a major cause for concern. The game planning of opponents also led to Cam having a career-worst 52.9 completion percentage. All of this put together is enough to fuel the belief that teams may be catching onto Newton.
Recommended Draft Time
Cam is an electrifying talent, but there’s one thing about him that won’t make him fall any further than round eight in your fantasy draft. It’s the fact that Newton can single-handedly take over a game, and head coach Ron Rivera has no issue putting the ball in his hands early and often. Last season, Newton only threw the ball less than 30 times in four games. If he’s able to recapture anything even close to his 2015 form, then he’ll be a total steal in round eight.
Heading into the season, ESPN’s Matthew Berry has Newton as his No. 11 quarterback, which seems a bit low. A few of the names above him, including potentially Ben Roethlisberger, Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins and Russell Wilson could all wind up lower than Cam.
Based on pure upside alone, it’s hard not to like Newton. ESPN even said Newton “leads the way for elite options” at quarterback last season, and he fell hard. With hype like that, and then failing to live up to expectations, it should slide him to round eight. In that case, there’ll be an opportunity to already have a loaded fantasy roster and just need to add quarterback like Newton who can help you win it all.
Consensus: Target Newton in Your Draft
Cam will be a QB1 this season, but the question is more of what level of quarterback he’ll be. Essentially, any QB from No. 1-12 selected is a first-string quarterback, but not all are top-tier options. Newton’s ability to take over games and do special this can be second to none in the NFL when he’s on. It’s easy to forget that this player is still the guy who’s in the conversation as an eighth-round draft pick.
A major selling point for being able to take Newton where you can, and waiting on your quarterback, is that you’ll be able to take top-tier running backs and wide receivers to fill in with him. It’s a much more appealing situation than using an early-round draft pick on a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, who may wind up scoring a point or two more per game on average than Cam.