Cam Newton’s Fantasy Value: An In-Depth Analysis

| 3 years ago
Cam Newton

Cam Newton’s Fantasy Value: An In-Depth Analysis


Cam Newton is an enigma of sorts around the National Football League. He possesses some of the rarest talent in the entire league, but he seems to struggle when it comes to leadership and taking his game to the next level.

Following a surprising 6-10 win/loss record during his rookie campaign back in 2011, Newton’s Carolina Panthers failed to take the next step this past season. They won just one more game, as it seemed their young talent struggled making adjustments to the NFL.

As it relates to Newton, one of his major flaws was inconsistency.

As most of you already know, it’s not a good idea to spend a high draft pick on a quarterback who struggles with consistency. While the grades listed above do not represent Newton’s fantasy production, they are indicators that he tends to struggle with consistency from week to week. This is evidenced by the fact that he was either an average or below-average quarterback in half of his starts last year.

You also have to factor in average draft position (ADP) when it comes to valuing where a quarterback should be selected in standard redraft leagues. That’s where it gets a bit intriguing for those who like what Newton brings to the table.

 

Player Team ADP PPG
Cam Newton Carolina 40.16 20.37
Colin Kaepernick San Francisco 54.61 26.38
Andrew Luck Indianapolis 58.48 16.65
Robert Griffin III Washington 63.72 19.84
Russell Wilson Seattle 64.87 19.23

For the purpose of full disclosure, these statistics take into account postseason performances. Both Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick had huge fantasy outputs in the playoffs. That’s why their numbers are a bit inflated.

As it is, there is no way you can come to me and indicate that Newton represents better value than any of the quarterbacks listed above. When determining standard redraft value, one must look at ceiling and floor. Are the three rookie quarterbacks from last season set for a regression? Can Kaepernick continue to defy his critics and build off what was a ridiculous sophomore campaign?

Again, that’s where it gets tricky.

As we have seen in recent history, quarterbacks do tend to struggle once opposing defenses figure them out. In addition, you really need to have a sample size that’s larger than one season when drawing a final conclusion. Of course that latter point isn’t as big of a deal when it comes to standard leagues.

The biggest issue here is that, while Newton possesses one of the highest ceilings of any early mid-round fantasy option, he also seems to have the lowest floor. Advanced statistics seem to suggest that you will not get consistent QB1 production from Newton. While he will give you stellar outings every other week, you can’t rely on him to be a fixture atop the rankings each week he suits up.

The following graph from eDraft.com is a prime example of this:

 

How does Newton perform against the top competition that the NFL has to offer? Were his fantasy stats inflated because of the level of competition he went up against last season?

He averaged just 12.1 fantasy points per game against pass defenses that graded out in the top 10 of the NFL this past season. Meanwhile, Newton played five games against pass defenses that finished in the bottom seven of the league. He averaged 23.5 fantasy points per game in those outings.

I fully understand that quarterbacks will struggle more against better pass defenses than they will against mediocre ones. But that’s just not solid splits right there for Newton. It also indicates that he might struggle this upcoming season with Carolina going up against better pass defenses.

Team Ranking
Seattle Seahawks 1st
Buffalo Bills 9th
New York Giants 30th
Arizona Cardinals 10th
Minnesota Vikings 28th
St. Louis Rams 25th
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14th
Atlanta Falcons 18th
San Francisco 49ers 4th
New England Patriots 6th
Miami Dolphins 13th
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14th
New Orleans Saints 32nd
New York Jets 15th
New Orleans Saints 32nd
Atlanta Falcons 18th

Newton and the Panthers will have five games against pass defenses that ranked in the top 10 of the NFL last season. Of the teams they go up against that were not in the top 10 of the NFL against the pass, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins seem primed to be improved a great deal after solid offseasons addressing the secondary.

At this point, the Panthers’ quarterback has an ADP of 40.28, which makes him an early third-round pick in standard 12-team leagues. On average, he is the third-highest quarterback selected behind only Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.

First and foremost, it’s nearly impossible to believe that any quarterback outside of Rodgers is worthy of that high of a pick. Second, it makes more sense to get either a RB2 or a WR1 in that slot.

This doesn’t even take into account the lack of consistency I mentioned above. Comparing Newton to other quarterbacks whose ADP is lower than the third-year starter from Auburn and we have somewhat of a split between where he is drafted and the value those who pick him will receive.

 

Percentage of Above-Average Performances

Player ADP Percentage
Cam Newton 40.28 56.3
Tom Brady 47.21 75
Colin Kaepernick 55.01 71.4
Peyton Manning 55.42 68.8
Andrew Luck 59.01 62.5
Matt Ryan 59.34 62.5

If you can risk getting Matt Ryan nearly two rounds later, why not? He’ll at least provide you with a bit more consistency than what we saw from Newton last year. In addition, it’s important to take a look at (and possibly throw out) Newton’s top performances.

During a three-game stretch against Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Atlanta, Newton put up 32 percent of his total fantasy output for the entire season. He averaged just 17.1 points per outing in his other 13 starts. It’s not likely that you needed Newton to put up those numbers in those three weeks in order to win your head-to-head matchup. In fact, relying on those performances to be consistent throughout the duration of a season makes absolutely no sense.

It’s true that if you take out the top three performances for each quarterback, you will see his average drop. That’s basic mathematics we all learned in high school algebra class. Still, the dropoff in production for Newton in those other 13 games has to be alarming.

Listen, I am not indicating that Newton isn’t a solid QB1 option. That would be utterly foolish. All I am indicating is that the combination of inconsistency and ADP leads me to believe that some are severely over-drafting Newton.

Don’t do the same thing.



Vincent is the head sports editor over at http://www.edraft.com/ and a featured columnist over at Bleacher Report. He also co-hosts a radio show every Monday and Wednesday from 3-6 PM ET. For media requests you can contact him at [email protected] and [email protected] http://www.edraft.com/ http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edraft http://profootballnuts.com/

  • @RevlisFootball

    Don’t fall for the industry-wide tendency toward consensus revolving around an over-emphasis on last year’s statistics. For some inexplicable reason, we have to re-learn every September that the previous year’s numbers don’t carry over.

    If you look at the historical career arc for NFL QB’s, Cam Newton is blowing by anything we have ever seen from a signal caller entering his 3rd season. His ADP may be rising to the point where is isn’t worth selecting him, but you can’t win your fantasy league by predicting the past.

    • Vincent Frank

      Agreed 100 percent. The issue with this, however, is that it’s pretty much one of the only concrete things you can look at when drawing a conclusion on draft day.

  • CebuBound

    Do you see the Packers drafting 2RBs in the top 5 rounds and then having to move 2 O-Line guys from the right side to the left side to help with the pass protection as an impact on Rogers #s? I am leaning towards Brees as the safest #1 QB this year. And w/Payton to be back w/a vengeance.

    • Vincent Frank

      I don’t see Brees ahead of Rodgers this year. In fact, Rodgers is the only QB I would spend a pick in the first three rounds on.

      Brees’ interception issues last season has to be worrisome. Maybe wait until later and get Kaepernick or Wilson. More value there, IMO.