Cam Newton's 2017 Fantasy Football Outlook
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What You Need to Know:
- Newton averaged the fewest fantasy points per game of his career in 2016.
- He struggled as a passer and tied or set career lows in rushing attempts, yards and TDs.
- Newton is expected to run even less in 2017.
- He spent the offseason recovering from surgery on his throwing shoulder but is expected to be ready for the start of training camp
Newton was 1 of the bigger letdowns of the 2016 fantasy season. A 2nd-round pick as the 1st QB off the board in drafts last August, he finished 17th at his position in fantasy points. That was a massive drop from his 1st-place finish in 2016. Newton posted the fewest points per game of his 6-year career.
So, what went wrong? Short answer: Just about everything. Long answer:
From a passing efficiency standpoint, 2016 was the worst of Newton’s pro career. His 52.9% completion percentage and 6.9 yards per attempt were both personal lows. The completion rate ranked dead last among 33 QBs who attempted 200+ passes. The yards per attempt ranked 24th.
Newton’s 510 pass attempts were his most since his 2011 rookie campaign. But he still finished with his 3rd fewest passing yards (3,509) and 2nd fewest TDs (19). His 3.7% TD rate was a career low.
Decline in rushing production
Even more damning was Newton’s decline in rushing production. His 90 carries and 359 yards were career lows — by wide margins. Newton had tallied at least 103 carries and at least 539 yards in each of his first 5 seasons. His averages over that span: 119.8 carries and 641.4 yards.
Newton also matched a career low with 5 rushing TDs. In all, he produced 18 fewer fantasy points on the ground than he had in any of his first 5 seasons. 18 more fantasy points last year would have boosted him to 10th among QBs.
It’s been rushing production that’s fueled Newton’s fantasy value. He easily leads all QBs in rushing attempts (689), yards (3,566) and TDs (48) since entering the league in 2011. In fact, no other QB has gained more than 2,689 yards or scored more than 18 times on the ground.
He’s been much less productive through the air. Newton ranks just 11th in both passing yards and TDs over the past 6 seasons. He’s never finished better than 10th in a season in passing yards and has only once ranked better than 11th in TDs.
So Newton needs that elite rushing production. But the Panthers might not let him get it. HC Ron Rivera mentioned multiple times this offseason that he wants to scale back his QB’s rushing attempts. “Our primary runner cannot be our QB,” he said in February.
Tough to blame Carolina for wanting to protect its $118 million QB. Newton has missed just 3 games in 6 NFL seasons. But he’s broken his ribs, had ankle surgery, suffered a concussion last year and needed surgery this offseason to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder.
Newton’s recovery from that procedure will be worth closely monitoring this summer. He was expected to resume throwing in June but never did. Carolina hopes to have him for the start of training camp, but we’ll see.
Newton certainly needs the practice reps. Besides coming off a career-worst year, he has new faces to throw to in rookies Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel. Devin Funchess will be counted on to assume a bigger role after Ted Ginn departed in free agency. And Kelvin Benjamin is a bit of a question mark after reporting to offseason workouts overweight following a semi-disappointing 2016 campaign. Newton at least returns Greg Olsen, who has ripped off 3 straight 1,000-yard seasons.
Draft Sharks Bottom Line:
There are a lot of reasons to worry about Newton heading into 2017. He’s coming off a career-worst year, had offseason surgery on his throwing shoulder and is expected to run less going forward. He’ll also need to work to assimilate rookies Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel into the offense.
Of course, Newton has also registered 3 top-4 fantasy seasons, including a #1 finish in 2015. So the ceiling is there if he regains form.
We’re just not ready to bet on that. A bounce-back in passing efficiency is certainly possible for a guy who’s still just 28. But he’ll need a big rebound in rush production to pop back into the top 5.