Jul 27, 2012
As a rookie, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton did some pretty amazing things. The first overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft threw for more than 420 yards in each of his first two starts and broke the rookie passing record with 4,051 yards. Newton was even more lethal on the ground rushing for 14 touchdowns, setting a new bar for all quarterbacks.
Naturally, most of the fantasy community has high expectations for Newton in year two. Unfortunately for those looking to select this dual threat will have to pay a very hefty price, one that is not worth the risk involved. Despite all of the flashiness surrounding Newton’s game there are also a number of reasons to be very cautious.
As a passer Newton still has a lot of work to do. While he excels at medium and deep throws outside the numbers, he has not found success throwing such distances to the middle of the field. Newton also struggles, oddly enough, with short throws that travel less than 10 yards. With a 60 percent completion percentage Newton ranked 18th among qualifying quarterbacks a year ago while his 17 interceptions where the sixth-most. That includes a trio of games that had three or more picks. After all the hype surrounding Newton’s fast start his passing output quickly fizzled. He did not have a 300-yard passing effort after Week 4 and only averaged 207.3 yards per game following a Week 9 bye.
Aside from the 33-year-old Steve Smith the Panthers lack anyone that resembles a No. 2 wide receiver on the roster. An injury-prone Louis Murphy was recently acquired via trade to compete with Brandon LaFell and David Gettis, recovering from a torn ACL, for supporting roles but neither of these receivers figure to take much pressure off Smith. Perhaps tight end Greg Olsen will take on a bigger role now that Jeremy Shockey is leaving town. If that is to be the case, Newton will need to remedy the aforementioned problem with completing short passes to maximize any safety valve outlet.
So we know Newton is a work in progress when comes to throwing the football. It’s the designed run plays and particularly rushing touchdowns that will allow Newton to live up to his price tag on draft day, right? Not so fast. Mike Tolbert, a.k.a the guy who vultured touchdowns from Ryan Mathews in San Diego the last two years, was signed in the offseason to play fullback. With DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart already in the backfield it’s hard to imagine Newton exceeding 125 rushing attempts or double-digit touchdowns again. In fact, the reduction in rushes inside the 10 yard line for Newton started last year. After getting 15 of the 21 attempts the Panthers had from that distance in the first half of the season Newton received just six of the 14 opportunities during the second half.
While having a full offseason and a year of experience both work in Newton’s favor it’s hard to justify his ranking inside the top-five of fantasy quarterbacks with so many proven commodities at the position. Consider Matthew Stafford as just one example. On the average, he’s going one full round later despite throwing 987 more yards and 20 more touchdowns than Newton last year.
Finally, based on the advanced play-by-play analysis done by Pro Football Focus, the Panthers will play a total of seven games against the top 10 pass rushing defenses of 2011 and six of those games will come against the top seven. Not only is Newton questionable to finish inside the top-five quarterbacks he could possibly go bust all together if the needed improvements aren’t made passing the ball and the rushing scores aren’t duplicated. Dependable, elite quarterbacks are being selected before and after Newton. Don’t take an unnecessary risk so early in your draft.