Cam Newton had one of the most impressive fantasy rookie seasons in recent memory last year. Eclipsing 4,000 passing yards, 21 passing TDs and an eye-popping 14 rushing TDs, Newton finished the season as the No. 5 QB in standard scoring systems. Not bad for someone who you could have drafted in the 13th round or later.
Everyone has taken notice, and Newton will not come cheaply this fantasy season. As of July 12, Newton is being drafted on average as the 13th overall player. So if you want Cam Newton to anchor your fantasy team, you’re going to have to pay a premium price at the end of Round 1, early Round 2 to get him.
It’s not worth it in 2012.
A guy who finished in the top 5 at his position in his rookie season has nowhere to go but up, right?
Wrong, and here’s why.
His Passing Numbers Dropped Significantly in the Second Half of the Season
Everyone was blown away by Cam’s debut performance versus the Cardinals in Week 1 last season. Everyone knew about his athletic ability, but no one in their right mind thought he would throw for 422 yards and account for three TDs.
He passed for even more yards in his Week 2 encore performance (432) and once again eclipsed the 30 fantasy-point mark.
This continued until his bye week in Week 9, as he averaged 299 passing yards per game with an impressive 8.34 yards per attempt in the first half of the season.
However, the second half was a different story.
From Week 10 on, Newton only averaged 207 passing yards/game, and his YPA dropped a full yard to 7.21. His completion percentage also dipped below 60 percent.
Over a full 16-game season, that projects out to only 3,300 passing yards, which is much less than the 3,800-4,000 yard projections that I’m seeing.
Disappointing second full seasons happen all the time (just ask Josh Freeman and Vince Young), and I would not be surprised to see Cam Newton struggle in the area of his game that needed the most improvement coming out of college (passing).
He Won’t Rush for 14 TDs Again
It just will not happen. It won’t. Call it regression to the mean, call it game-planning or call it luck. Whatever you want to call it, Cam Newton will not rush for 14 TDs again.
For the four other QBs who have scored 10-plus rushing TDs in a single season, guess how many rushing TDs they averaged in the following season?
If (when) Cam Newton falls below double-digit rushing TDs, he will have to pass for seven or eight more TDs in order to make up for that loss of fantasy points. He can do it, but I’m not willing to invest a first-round pick in hopes that he improves that much as a passer in his second year in the league.
He Has Only Done it for One Season
When I’m building the core of my team in the first round of a redraft, I want proven, rock-solid studs with zero-to-little question marks. This is especially true if I’m drafting a QB this early.
As NFL teams begin to pass more and more, fantasy QBs are being drafted higher and higher. The basis for that is for another article entirely, but if you decide to do so, you should be drafting QBs who have been successful for multiple years.
Fantasy football is all about being ahead of the curve and finding the new studs. I understand that. However, there’s a fine line between finding the monster upstart star and the young buck who fails to meet lofty expectations.
Once you’ve built a core of three to four unquestionable studs, you can start taking the high-risk, high-reward players in the middle rounds. This has been a proven strategy for years and works regardless of fantasy sport, league size or scoring system.
It’s very possible that Cam Newton ends up as one of the top fantasy QBs in the game this year. On the other hand, it’s also equally likely that he drops out of the top 10 at his position. That’s a risk that I’m not willing to take in the first round.