[sc name=”Author Adam Hall”]
Cam Newton is a bit more than a year removed from one of the best year-long performances by any fantasy player ever. Cam scored over 425 points in standard leagues that year, logging 35 touchdowns through the air and 10 on the ground.
For the first four years of his career, Cam Newton showed himself to be an elite fantasy quarterback. Unfortunately, the last 13 months have brought that fantasy relevance into question.
The question lingers: is Cam Newton now a backup fantasy quarterback? To see what we should do with him, we have to find out whether he can regain his old form.
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Is There an MVP Somewhere In There Still?
Cam hasn’t looked like himself for the last year and change. Since the start of the 2016 season, Newton has completed only 53.2% of his passes, and has had a 21:18 TD/INT ratio. Furthermore, he’s only averaged 22.5 yards on the ground along with .33 rushing TDs a game over that span. When you subtract the lost yards due to sacks, he only has netted 2.78 yards on the ground per game. This is a world of difference from his best year in 2015 where he completed nearly 60% of his passes, averaged nearly 40 rushing yards per game, had a 35:10 TD/INT ratio, .625 rushing touchdowns per game, and netted 22 rushing yards a game including sacks.
Newton is currently coming off a game against a Saints’ team that allowed nearly 450 yards through the air in Week 2. Unfortunately, Newton couldn’t even reach the 200-yard mark, and was sacked four times. If he can’t even play well against one of the worst defenses in the league how can we trust him to produce?
What’s changed since 2015 for the Panthers? The Panthers defense has lost a couple of crucial pieces to start, Josh Norman and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott have both since left the team. Although the defense is still one of the better units in the NFC, they can no longer make the game proceed at the speed that Rivera and company would like, thus putting more on Cam’s plate.
More importantly, the offensive line has regressed. According to Profootballfocus.com, both tackles have graded out below average for the 2017 season as a whole and Matt Kalil was graded as the 61st of 72 tackles. More bad news for the Cam, Pro-bowl center Ryan Kalil has been sidelined since the start of Week 2. During those two weeks, Newton was sacked ten times and has had very little semblance of an offense to show for it. There were also numerous reports that Newton has been injured during the last two outings. If this is the case, we can assume that the offense is going to turn into a shell of itself in an attempt to shield Newton from the worst of the punishment the NFL dishes out every week. This is more bad news for Newton owners.
Finally, Newton is without a favorite weapon and his alternative has been hobbled. Earlier this season, Panthers stalwart tight end Greg Olsen went down with a broken foot, and just to make matters worse, pro-bowl wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin damaged the same knee that sidelined him for a year. Cam is known as a vertical passer and now both of his trusted, big-bodied pass-catchers are either gone, or unlikely to perform at expected. Both of these issues combined with Curtis Samuel‘s (4.31, 40-yard dash time) continued absence takes the vertical pass nearly entirely out of the playbook.
Cam has never been an accurate medium range passer, and due to his current situation, this is exactly what he’s going to be asked to do. This should fill all Newton owners with horror. The game against the Saints could be a reckoning of what’s yet to come for the Panthers’ this year. Christian McCaffery walked out of the game with a respectable nine catches for over 100 yards, but no one else on the team was able to produce. As long as Cam is restricted to a conservative game plan composed of dump offs, screens, slants and five-yard outs it will be hard to envision anyone other than CMC playing well.
What Do We Do?
Cam Newton is currently tanking teams that drafted him, so it seems fool-hardy to continue to start Cam while his team, and his body are in tatters. If Ryan Kalil gets healthy, Benjamin isn’t slowed down by his knee injury (which didn’t show any structural damage), the defense continues to play great football, and Cam gets as healthy as possible, then I would be more than comfortable starting him again. Until that day comes, we as a community need to seriously consider a replacement. If you can roster a second QB, this may be the right time, but in leagues with only six bench spots, this will constitute a very difficult decision.
Currently, the Patriots are playing about as poor of defense as you will ever see from a Bill Belichick team. If I had to either start him or drop him I would give him one more chance against a depleted Patriots team, but if he fails to amass 20 fantasy points again, Cam officially becomes my backup until further notice. The situation doesn’t get much better for Cam immediately after this game as he plays the Lions, and the Eagles who have substantially better defenses than any of the teams the Panthers’ have played this year thus far.
Currently there are numerous viable starting QBs that you can pick up for the entire year, or to stream on a weekly basis.
Alex Smith—owned in 60% of Yahoo Leagues
Has averaged over 20.7 points per game this year and has not had a game under 15 points.
Tyrod Taylor—owned in 41% of Yahoo Leagues
Has scored more than 17.5 points in two games this year.
Blake Bortles—owned in 12% of Yahoo Leagues
Scored 27.56 points last week against one of the best defenses in the league, and is the king of fantasy points in garbage time.
Jared Goff—owned in 12% of Yahoo Leagues
Has averaged 17.3 fantasy points a game through the first three weeks of the season.
Deshaun Watson—owned in 15% of Yahoo Leagues.
Scored an average of 20 fantasy points over the last two weeks
Trevor Siemian—owned in 51% of Yahoo Leagues
Scored more than 23 fantasy points in the first two weeks and according to my stats has the easiest passing schedule in the league this year.
Case Keenum—owned in 1% of Yahoo Leagues
Keenum destroyed the Bucs last week and established a firm connection with Steffon Diggs. There is a chance that this could continue on this well-formed Vikings’ team.
You have options
There you have it, don’t be afraid to turn away from the conventional wisdom and start the less than well regarded quarterback that is backing up his status as an NFL QB with real production. If he can’t produce, then you have no choice but to do your best to right the ship. If you are tired of losing by the five to 10 points that Newton should have gotten you, take the plunge, put him on your bench and do something about it.
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