Hey, wait, where’d all my receivers go?
Why you no like Cam Newton? What did Cam Newton do to you? Be a top-4 overall scorer just last year? A top-5 QB in all three of his NFL seasons? Late round gold in 2011? Why all the hate? Why is Newton being drafted after guys like Cordarrelle Patterson, Shane Vereen, Ray Rice, Jordan Cameron, and Joique Bell? Those are three committee backs, a TE who had a boom early last year and disappeared for another large chunk of it, and a receiver who’s tied to a Matt Cassel run offense. Seriously! I gots mad questions yo! I’ve seen these sorts of players drafted ahead of Newton in almost every draft I’ve done on numerous sites. He’s currently rated 45th overall on ESPN and 54th on Yahoo, and I’ve gotten him in the 7th round a couple times already this year, in 12 team leagues at that. If past performance holds true, It’s safe to say he’ll outperform that draft position.
I think the reason so many of you are staying away from Newton is his giant set of teeth. Those pearly white chompers are just too perfect. I bet he needs an extra large toothbrush, that’s a ton of surface to cover. Yes this probably isn’t the best reason to distrust someone but it’s the only one that makes sense of this ADP. Let’s think about this, he was the 4th highest scoring player in RCL’s last season and he played a portion of it banged up. Though there is some concern with him returning from offseason ankle surgery, and the thumping noise (medical term!) it’s making. Could we just be in for an adjustment in style? Could we be in for a season of him actually throwing the ball exclusively? Like 90 pass-10 rush? Is he going to turn into Drew Bledsoe? Nope not going to happen. Sure the Panthers could call more passing plays but there’s no way they will eliminate their read optionish play book. I do expect to see some progression in the pocket this year from Newton, but it’s not like he’s ever been a poor NFL passer. He’s been a true duel pass/run threat since he came into the league. I’m not sure there’s ever been a duel threat type QB who was as good a runner and passer as Newton. He has the ability to be the best QB in fantasy if his passing stats get a bump and he gets just enough goal line carries.
The real gamble besides his ankle with Newton is his receiving core. After the Panthers let Brandon LaFell, Steve Smith, and Ted Ginn Jr. walk. The Panthers drafted Kelvin Benjamin a 6″5 240 pound red zone threat out of Florida State. They signed veterans Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, and Tiquan Underwood. They return Tight End and Newton favorite Greg Olsen, and added some depth behind him in signing Ed Dickson from Baltimore. Much of the fuss over his lack of weapons is exaggerated and off base. I’d contend depending upon what Kelvin Benjamin can be, this could turn out to be his best. If Benjamin can come into the league and be a big possession receiver, who can make the tough catches through the middle, and haul down jump balls for first downs and touchdowns, then the rest of the supporting cast settles in nicely. Cotchery had a damn fine season in Pittsburgh hauling in 60 balls and 10 TD’s. He’s fine as your #3 option, behind Olsen and hopefully Benjamin. Add in the running game and you have a pretty solid offense with a trustworthy O-line and brand of football.
As for the concerns about his diminishing rushing yards, I accept that he may never run for 700+ yards again, but running for 600 yards and 10+ TD’s isn’t out of the question. He’s still going to get his scrambles, carries in the red zone offense and will always get the rock on the goal line. Let’s not forget this guy set the QB record for rushing TD’s as a rookie, that’s not by accident. I’m also intrigued by the talk of Carolina using two tight end sets with Olsen and Dickson, similar to Olsen and Jeremy Shockey a few years ago. That sort of look with one or even two of their three usable backs behind him, could open up some lanes, and potential to scheme up creative ways to get Newton some room to run. Whether Mike Shula is up to the task remains to be seen.
I strongly believe that Newton will put up top 10 numbers overall once again. He’s just that talented and he knows how to play the position. If I had to predict a stat line or the world was going to end, I’d first be puzzled that predicting Cam Newton’s 2014 stats would save civilization and then I’d quickly blurt out 3,900 Yards, 28 TD’s, 11 INT’s, 560 yards rushing 8 TD’s. That’s the production of a useable QB and an goal line vulture type running back, and all from one player. The best part is you can draft this player after your first four picks. Bananas! This would allow you to take 2 receivers and two backs, prior to taking a top 5, possibly top 3 QB. That’s value no matter how you slice it. Newton could be the difference maker on many a championship squad in our fake game this year.