Why Cam Newton could regress in fantasy in 2016

The Carolina quarterback was great in 2015. As PFF Fantasy editor Daniel Kelley notes, he was perhaps unsustainably so.

| 4 months ago
(Chris Keane/AP Images for Panini)

(Chris Keane/AP Images for Panini)

Why Cam Newton could regress in fantasy in 2016

(Editor’s note: Every day, we’re offering our Crazy Fantasy Stat of the Day, something that catches our eye and helps us learn something for fantasy for 2016.)

Raw totals are what fantasy football is about. A guy who gets 100 yards in a game on six carries might have played better than the guy who gets 150 yards on 30 carries, but your fantasy team got more from the second guy.

That is, we care about the raw totals when we’re scoring our team. But as evaluators, especially when making offseason analysis, rate stats are crucial. Rates can tell us who played over their head, or whose success was based on quantity versus quality. Rates can also give us an indication of who might be primed for regression.

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With that in mind, here’s an interesting rate from 2015, and it’s our Fantasy Stat of the Day: Cam Newton’s 0.73 fantasy points per dropback set a record for the PFF era (since 2007). That’s with a minimum of 25 percent of team snaps played. Of course, Newton led the league in raw fantasy points in 2015, with a 407 mark that was 53 points better than second-place Russell Wilson. But he did that on only 557 dropbacks — the rest of the top 14 fantasy quarterbacks all had at least 573, and nine of the top 14 had 600-plus.

In the nine years of PFF data, the only quarterback to get close to Newton’s mark was Nick Foles in 2013, who also had 0.73, just barely behind Newton when you go to more decimal places. The next year, that same rate for Foles dropped to 0.41. Of course, Foles is a famous one-hit wonder. So go deeper. From 2007 to 2014, 32 quarterbacks had a points-per-dropback rate of 0.55 or better. David Garrard didn’t play after his season, so that leaves us with 31 quarterbacks. Of those 31, 29 of them saw their points-per-dropback rate fall the next year, with only Aaron Rodgers (2010 to 2011) and Russell Wilson (2013 to 2014) able to improve. On the average, those 31 quarterbacks went from 0.61 to 0.50.

Yes, Newton is a running quarterback and that gives him a high floor, but that list of 31 includes several guys who had a big ground game, and not much changed.

Odds are that Newton will continue as one of the best fantasy quarterbacks. He’s our consensus No. 1 quarterback, with four of the five rankers slotting him there and the fifth ranking him second. But he finished first last year by 53 full fantasy points, and his points-per-dropback rate was similarly best (Wilson was at 0.60, and seven quarterbacks finished between 0.50 and 0.59). There’s plenty of room for regression from Newton without him falling significantly in the quarterback rankings. Draft him expecting good production, but don’t draft him expecting 2015.

Draft Guide 2016

| Fantasy Editor

Daniel Kelley is the fantasy editor for Pro Football Focus. He has previously appeared at SB Nation.

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