The Fantasy Dominoes of Cam Newton Re-Signing with Patriots
Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images. Pictured: Patriots QB Cam Newton
With news that Cam Newton is re-signing with the Patriots on a one-year deal, where does that leave the fantasy football outlook for him and his teammates in New England?
The short answer is: Likely not all that far removed from what we saw in 2020. The long answer is, well, better left to three of our analysts.
Sean is our Director of Predictive Analytics and was the most accurate fantasy football draft ranker of the 2019 season according to FantasyPros.
The re-signing of Cam Newton means the Patriots will continue to be the least fantasy-friendly team in the NFL.
In 15 games last season, Newton had a comical 157 median passing yards per game and eight touchdowns. He had one of the worst supporting casts in the league and was without his top wide receiver in Julian Edelman for 10 games.
I expect the Patriots to add a couple of weapons through free agency and the draft, which should allow Newton to post much better numbers through the air in 2021.
Newton’s fantasy value in 2020 came via his legs. He averaged 39.5 rushing yards per game and led all NFL quarterbacks with 12 rushing touchdowns. His rushing ability is what makes him a high ceiling/low floor QB2 option. It’s also what makes it difficult to trust any Patriots running back in fantasy — Newton is the clear goal-line back in this offense.
The Patriots will continue to be the most boring teams to project, and one I will be fading in fantasy.
Samantha is a fantasy football analyst.
This news is still sinking in after spending months assuming Newton would be moving on from New England.
The 31-year-old signal-caller started 15-of-16 games last season, and while the deal certainly suggests the Patriots would continue to wield him as their starter, initial reports have left the door wide open for further offseason QB moves.
Passing has been a persistent pain point for Newton, who has dealt with numerous shoulder issues throughout his career. Last season, the Auburn product completed 65.8% of his passes for just 2,657 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 592 yards and scored an impressive 12 rushing touchdowns — his second-most since entering the league as the No. 1 overall pick in 2011.
Newton’s anemic passing game in 2020 was further hampered by the Patriots’ dearth of receiving weapons, which was part of the impetus for Tom Brady’s departure. Jakobi Meyers finished as the team’s top receiver with 729 receiving yards, followed by Damiere Byrd with 604 yards and running back James White with 375 yards.
New England would have to acquire significantly more offensive talent for Newton to make a palpable improvement through the air.
From a fantasy perspective, the 2015 NFL MVP finished as QB20 through Weeks 1 to 16, which put him squarely in QB2 territory. Assuming he’s the starter come Week 1, and barring a high-profile addition at receiver, his outlook should be similar to his finish last season.
Newton’s passing will continue to be offset by his rushing, which also provides a safer floor for fantasy. He’s worthy of consideration in two-quarterback leagues or as a backup in standard leagues.
Chris is a senior analyst and was the 11th-most accurate weekly in-season ranker of the 2020 season according to FantasyPros.
At this point, the biggest impact of Newton’s one-year deal with the Patriots is a reminder to take NFL contract reports with a grain of salt. While initially reported to be worth close to $14 million, Newton’s deal contains closely $9 million in incentives, giving him a team-friendly base salary around $5 million — not surefire Week 1 starter money by any means.
With the NFL’s third-most cap space ($68.6 million), the Patriots will continue their hunt for a higher quality starter after Newton finished 30th of 35 qualified quarterbacks with a 47.0 mark in Total QBR last season. Given that Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford and Carson Wentz are off the market while Russell Wilson didn’t include the Patriots in his preferred trade destinations, this is a smart move by the Patriots to lock in a high-upside quarterback who in the worst-case scenario can be used as a bridge quarterback or high-quality backup.
Newton finished as the QB19 in per-game fantasy scoring last season, but I question his ability to make a jump back into the top-12 for a few reasons.
For one, cap space doesn’t necessarily equal supporting-cast improvement for the Patriots, who have had far more misses than hits at receiver in free agency and the draft in the Bill Belichick era.
Secondly, if Newton remains the starter, it’s still likely they remain a relatively high-volume rushing offense after rushing on 51.3% of their plays last season, second-most. Despite finishing with monster rushing stats last season with 592 yards and 12 touchdowns while adding two receptions for 35 yards and another touchdown, Newton still finished as a low-end QB2. He produced more fantasy games below 13 points (six) than above 20 (five).
Finally, it is questionable whether he can hold up for a full season at age-32 after carrying 137 times last season, second-most of his career. He was already breaking down before he got to New England and admittedly found it difficult to recover from a bout with COVID-19, so sustaining any type of physical injury could be disastrous.
Given Newton’s health concerns, supporting-cast concerns and no guarantee of the starting job, I wouldn’t go moving him up best-ball draft boards just yet.
The initial report of a “$14 million” deal, however, has seemingly resulted in the market assuming that Newton will continue as the starter, which does give Patriots futures some value, as they’re still considered a longshot.
With their cap space and nine draft picks, it is still possible that they acquire a difference-making quarterback tor next season such as Houston’s Deshaun Watson via trade or BYU’s Zach Wilson via the draft. For this reason, my most actionable recommendation would be to nibble on the Patriots’ division odds at +450 (DraftKings), which implies only an 18.2% chance of winning the division.
Their odds to win the AFC (20-1) and Super Bowl (40-1) are worth a look on the off-chance they acquire Watson given that Belichick’s genius is on the defensive side of the ball, but it’s obviously a long shot for a reason.