SuperCam's 2012: A Tale of Two "Halves"
Whenever Cam Newton’s 2012 season is brought up in a fantasy discussion, the typical response involves an “ugh” followed by some comment about how he was so much better his rookie season. That’s not true, but for some reason it feels like it is. Newton ended the season as the third-highest scoring quarterback (Weeks 1-16), so why does there seem to be such a negative attitude toward Newton? He joins Drew Brees as the only quarterback to finish the last two seasons in the top 3 for points scored. But there’s much more to the story than simply looking at how many points were racked up by season’s end, so let’s take deeper a look into Newton’s 2012.
A Tale of Two “Halves”
Cam Newton’s season is really broken into two parts. The first part involves Mr. Average from Weeks 1-10. Somewhere during his practices for Week 11, Newton stepped into the telephone booth and turned into SuperCam for the final six games of the fantasy season. Take a look at Newton’s stats from Weeks 1-10 compared to Weeks 11-16:
|Pass YPG||Pass TD||INT||Rush TD||PPG|
Over the first 10 weeks of the season, Newton was the 11th-best fantasy quarterback. He scored an average of 18.6 PPG, which is commendable but not what people were expecting. Through 10 weeks, Newton was behind the likes of Andy Dalton, Matthew Stafford, and Carson Palmer. Repeat: Carson Palmer.
Starting in Week 11, his TD/INT ratio went from terrible to fantastic, and he was able to score the same number of rushing touchdowns in three fewer games. Newton’s pass YPG increased slightly, and his aDOT jumped from 9.4 to 9.9. Most importantly, his 26.9 PPG was best among quarterbacks over that most crucial stretch in every fantasy footballer’s season. His points per dropback went from .54 to .78, a 44 percent increase. The stats that show the massive difference between Newton Weeks 1-10 and Newton Weeks 11-16 go on and on.
Up, Down, Up, Down
When charted out against the average top-12 fantasy quarterbacks on a given week, the fact that Newton had a rollercoaster season is made plain. Newton was a top-12 quarterback in Weeks 2, 4, 7 and 9, which means Newton failed to be worthy of a starting spot Weeks 1, 3, 5, 6 (bye week), 8, and 10. Not good for someone who spent a first- or second-round draft pick on Newton.
Continuing on the tale of two “halves” theme, Newton was a top-12 quarterback each week from Weeks 11-16. But his failure to post back-to-back weeks as a worthy starter until Weeks 11 and 12 gave owners headaches.
Take a look at Newton’s season (red line) compared to the highest scoring quarterback (blue line) each week and the average of the top-12 (green line):
The 0 in Week 6 is from Carolina’s bye week. Newton had great performances in weeks 2 and 4, scoring a significant amount more than the average of the 12 best fantasy quarterbacks those weeks.
However, Newton failed to put together one week that was better than the last until Week 11, when he improved on his week 10 total by 1.8 points. He was good enough to score double-digit points every week except for one, but his failure to produce consistently until late in the season turned people off. By the time Week 11 rolled around, it’s possible that those who spent a first-round pick on him were too far behind the 8-ball for it to make a difference when he finally turned it on.
I also think that the way the media portrayed Newton at large in 2012 – not just from a fantasy perspective – was a contributing factor to the “ugh” in the fantasy realm. His moody press conferences, the image of a towel over his head on the sidelines, and the general immaturity of Newton dragged his reputation down.
It should be noted that the teams Newton faced during his dominant stretch were weak. Starting with the Buccaneers in Week 11, Newton went up against the Eagles, Chiefs, Falcons, Chargers, and Raiders to finish out the fantasy season. That’s not exactly murderers’ row.
Newton should end next season as a top-5 fantasy quarterback again. His performance over the final six fantasy games shows that when he turns it on, there is no better fantasy quarterback, except for maybe a healthy RGIII. His running ability is what separates him. Obviously, how Newton responds to new coaches remains to be seen, but it’s safe to assume he will still be a deadly dual threat. Throw in the fact he still has plenty to work on in terms of his passing, and it appears that Newton hasn’t even scratched his ceiling yet.
Given the general feeling that Newton was a disappointment during the 2012 fantasy football season, he should be available at a (relative) bargain on draft day. Those looking to own Newton will likely still have to spend a pick in the first two rounds, but it’s better than an early first round grade.
Expect Newton’s durable body to hang in there – something that can’t be said for RGIII – again in 2013. My guess is that he is as good next season as he was down the stretch in 2012.
Questions or comments? Send them to Tyler Loechner on Twitter @PFF_Loechner.