Is Cam Newton Still a Top-10 Fantasy Football Quarterback?

Is Cam Newton Still a Top-10 Fantasy Football Quarterback? article feature image

Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1).

  • Cam Newton has been one of the NFL's most-consistent fantasy quarterbacks for nearly a decade.
  • Ian Hartitz breaks down Cam Newton's upcoming season and where he should land in your draft order.

We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2019 season; this is part of that series.

The Panthers have been a winning football team more often than not during the Cam Newton era. Overall, their long-time franchise quarterback has gone 68-53-1 since entering the league in 2011, racking up three seasons with double-digit wins along the way.

Newton’s ridiculous rushing ability will always be an issue for defenses, and he’s become a problem that is nearly impossible to solve when he’s also at his best as a passer …

Of course, there are occasions when Newton becomes his own worst enemy, holding onto the ball too long and failing to consistently make accurate throws down the field.

What follows is a breakdown on what Newton brings to the table as well as what to make of his fantasy football value entering the 2019 season.

Newton is special as a ball carrier

There aren’t many quarterbacks in the history of the league blessed with Newton’s physical attributes:

  • Newton’s ability to run 40 yards in 4.59 seconds makes him the league’s fifth-fastest starting quarterback on paper behind only Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, Marcus Mariota and Russell Wilson.
  • Newton’s 10’6″ broad jump is the best mark among all quarterbacks to compete at the combine over the past 10 years.
  • Newton’s Burst, Agility and SPARQ-x Scores are in the 93rd, 84th and 97th percentile among all quarterbacks, respectively (PlayerProfiler).

The Panthers’ franchise quarterback separates himself from these other signal callers in terms of both size (6-foot-5 and 248-pounds) as well as a rare ability to shake-and-bake virtually any oncoming defender.

Players with at least 50 rushing touchdowns over the past 10 years …

Adrian Peterson
Marshawn Lynch
LeSean McCoy
LeGarrette Blount
Frank Gore
Arian Foster
Mark Ingram

Cam Newton

— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) June 15, 2019

Newton joins Tyrod Taylor, Michael Vick and Lamar Jackson as the only quarterbacks to rack up at least 20 broken tackles in a single season over the past decade.

Only Josh Allen (53 rushing yards per game), Lamar Jackson (43) and Michael Vick (43) have averaged more yards on the ground than Newton on a per-game basis since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.

Usage has obviously played a massive role in Newton’s success on the ground:

  • Newton (33) joins Dak Prescott (30) and Tyrod Taylor (22) as the only quarterbacks with at least 20 rush attempts inside the 10-yard line over the past three seasons.
  • Newton is responsible for four of just six instances of a quarterback racking up at least 125 rush attempts in a season ever.

But why shouldn’t the Panthers give Newton the rock near the end zone? He’s quite literally been the most-efficient goal-line back of the past decade.

53 players have at least 30 rush attempts inside the five-yard line over the past 10 seasons …

… Cam Newton has converted 37-of-54 attempts (69%) …

… nobody else has reached 60%.

— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) June 21, 2019

The only question for Newton entering 2019 is what version of him we’ll get as a passer.

Newton is hardly incompetent as a passer

Newton’s ability to beat defenses as a pure runner doesn’t mean he’s incapable of consistently winning from the pocket. A poor career completion rate (59.6%) hasn’t stopped Newton from generally displaying above-average efficiency as a passer:

  • Yards per attempt: 7.32 (19th among 61 quarterbacks with at least 16 starts since 2011)
  • Adjusted yards per attempt: 7.01 (25th)
  • Touchdown rate: 4.7% (18th)
  • QB rating: 86.4 (32nd)

This production is even more impressive after considering the general lack of firepower Newton has had at his disposal throughout his career.

Fantasy finish from Cam Newton's No. 1 wide receiver by year …

2011: Steve Smith WR8
2012: Smith WR20
2013: Smith WR37
2014: Kelvin Benjamin WR17
2015: Ted Ginn WR33
2016: Benjamin WR28
2017: Devin Funchess WR22
2018: D.J. Moore WR35

Moore current ADP: WR27. He can smash that

— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) May 28, 2019

The result of an above-average passing quarterback with elite rushing upside has been one of the most consistently excellent fantasy quarterbacks the league has ever seen.

  • 2011: Newton finished as the QB3 in total fantasy points
  • 2012: QB4
  • 2013: QB3
  • 2014: QB17 (missed two games, QB7 in fantasy points per game)
  • 2015: QB1
  • 2016: QB17 (missed one game, QB13 in FP per game)
  • 2017: QB2
  • 2018: QB12 (missed two games, QB8 in FP per game)

Newton managed to complete a career-high 67.9% of his passes last season during his first year with new offensive coordinator Norv Turner and could feasibly improve even further in 2019 because …

The 2019 Panthers offense has plenty of firepower

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Newton’s right shoulder. His average target depth of 7.6 yards last season was easily a career low, which was both by design and due to a shoulder injury suffered in Week 7.

This is a situation that will need to be monitored up through Week 1 of the 2019 season, but the arrow at least appears to be pointing in the right direction at the moment: Newton is reportedly “pain free” and was cleared to throw regular sized footballs at the Panthers’ mandatory minicamp.

It remains to be seen how much of an impact Newton’s new-look mechanics will have on his performance, but this decision to embrace check downs could ultimately be just fine for the offense moving forward thanks to their talented skill position options.

  • Christian McCaffrey is currently my choice for the 1.01 selection of PPR fantasy drafts. ‘Run CMC’ averaged a sterling 6.0 yards per touch last season — the seventh-highest mark among all running backs. McCaffrey joins Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. as the only players in NFL history with at least 170 catches during the first two seasons of their career.

  • 2018 first-round pick D.J. Moore immediately established himself as one of the league’s best receivers after the catch. Only Percy Harvin in 2012 (8.7 yards after the catch) as well as DeSean Jackson in 2014 (8.5) averaged more yards after the reception over the past 10 years than Moore (7.9) as a rookie. Newton has averaged a career-best 9.67 adjusted yards per attempt when targeting Moore – well ahead of the next-highest receivers Corey Brown (8.03), Greg Olsen (8.01) and Steve Smith (8.01).
  • Curtis Samuel (42 targets) barely worked behind Moore (43) over the team’s final six games of 2019 once Devin Funchess was delegated to a backup role. Of course,  McCaffrey (53) continued to lead the way over that stretch. Samuel (WR60 Average Draft Position) is a fantastic fantasy value, particularly in best ball formats, due to the possibility that he gets triple-digit targets in 2019. He boasts hidden upside as a rusher and is talented enough to warrant a hefty increase of usage this season.

Newton also has tight ends Greg Olsen and Ian Thomas along with more-than-competent backup receivers Chris Hogan, Jarius Wright, Torrey Smith, Aldrick Robinson and Rashad Ross at his disposal.

Targeting quarterbacks who are recovering from offseason shoulder surgery isn’t usually a recommended practice despite Andrew Luck’s success in 2018. Still, Newton’s ability to heavily influence games on the ground, combined with a plethora of playmakers capable of thriving in a quick-hitting passing game, makes him a huge fantasy football bargain at his current QB12 ADP.

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