Overrated Shame-Maker: Cam Newton
Last week I brought you a series of six players that you need to move up your rankings via the “Underrated Game-Breakers,” but the offseason and advanced metrics don’t speak highly of everyone, and I’ll be highlighting a few of these guys as “Overrated Shame-Makers.” I’d encourage you to think twice before selecting these players at all, let alone at the current inflated status.
In my opinion, there is no better place to start such a series than with the Panthers’ Cam Newton. The quarterback position as a whole is a bit overvalued, as there are more fantasy-relevant signal callers than owners in most formats.
That being said, the preseason ranking of Newton stands out as the most unreasonable. A top five quarterback? A top 50 overall player? I don’t have five quarterbacks in my top 50, and Newton ranks closer to 10 than five at his position in my early ranks.
Let’s start where Newton is elite: on the ground. He made fewer big plays with his legs last season than his first two years in the NFL (a 23.6 percent drop off in carries of at least 10 yards from his two-year average), recording career lows in rush attempts, yards per rush, and rushing touchdowns.
He was still able to total 585 yards and six touchdowns on the ground – production that any quarterback would love to have. But without Steve Smith extending the defense, not to mention offseason ankle surgery that is going to set back his training for the upcoming season, that decline is likely to continue and potentially accelerate this year.
But let’s face it: If you’re avoiding Newton, it isn’t because of his legs. I’ve been preaching all offseason (and really for the better part of a few years) that opportunity is simply the best way to project fantasy performance. It’s obviously not fool proof, but it follows that those who have the most opportunities to help your fantasy team, are those who help the most.
Newton ranked 19th in total drop backs last season, a number that is concerning behind a good offensive line but is downright terrifying behind a Carolina line that ranked as the sixth worst pass-blocking unit in 2013. If you’re spending an early pick on a quarterback who isn’t going to have a ton of opportunities, he better make the most of the limited chances he does get. But does Newton do that?
He was the 18th most accurate “deep passer” last season, completing just 31.3 percent of his long throws. As you might have heard, Steve Smith has taken his talents to Baltimore, a major red flag when you consider the veteran burner accounted for 30 percent of Newton’s deep completions last season.
Speaking of pass-catchers, who is going to catch the ball in Carolina? Is Jerricho Cotchery really their number one receiver? The same Jerricho Cotchery who will turn 32 in June and is averaging less than 2.5 catches per game over the last five seasons?
Kelvin Benjamin is a nice addition and potentially a number one wide receiver in years to come, but he is still a rookie that is going to see heavier coverage than most first year players. The receiving core is not only low on proven NFL talent; they are all taking on new roles in an offseason in which their quarterback will be focused on getting healthy more so than getting acclimated with his new weapon.
Looking for the Spark Notes? A mobile quarterback with downward trending rushing statistics that is recovering from ankle surgery and has limited weapons to throw to that is being drafted in the first five rounds. If that’s your style, grab Newton … and join every league I’m in.
Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out our new Mock and Companion Draft Tool. Utilizing our updated player projections, run a quick mock draft and see where this year’s crop of free agents are coming off the board in early fantasy football drafts.
Fantasy questions for me? I’m on Twitter @unSOPable23 and willing to help you build a fantasy champion in 2014.