Fantasy Football: Should We Be Worried About D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel After Week 1?
The top two receivers for the Carolina Panthers, D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel, were drafted inside the single-digit rounds in most fantasy football drafts.
In Week 1, Moore finished as the WR48 in half-PPR fantasy football formats. Samuel was the WR70.
Oftentimes, the furor around training camp activities can vault up certain prospects way above where they should be realistically.
And with a 10-to-4 target split in Week 1 in favor of Moore, it is fair to dig into whether this was the exception versus the rule, whether Cam Newton can really support two high-level fantasy receivers in 2019.
Let's take Week 1's lessons and try to dig a little deeper into Newton's, offensive coordinator Norv Turner's, and Carolina's history as a whole to see if we can make some data-driven assertions around the rest of the season for Moore and Samuel.
Cam Newton's History
Throughout his career, Newton has been a threat to finish as a top-five fantasy quarterback. But he hasn’t necessarily done it through the air.
In fact, Newton has only hit 4,000 yards passing once in his career -- in his rookie season. Coupled with a touchdown total of no more than 35 in a season through eight years, Cam’s value as a passer might be overstated.
Through the lens of efficiency rather than counting stats, Newton’s pure passing also doesn’t inspire much confidence. Looking at some of the Net Expected Points (NEP) data available to us here at numberFire, Newton’s best season in terms of Passing NEP per drop back came back in 2015. That season, his Passing NEP per drop back of 0.20 ranked eighth among 37 passers with at least 200 drop backs and was nearly twice the league average (0.11).
This means that Newton's best passing efficiency season capped him as the eighth-most efficient quarterback in the NFL.
What About the Coach?
Much has been said about former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s ability to get multiple receivers very involved in past offenses, and some of that is true. Turner’s three-year stretch as Minnesota's coordinator has coincided with the emergence of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen into the world-class talents they are considered today. But let’s not pretend like that is the norm of his career.
In his previous destinations in Cleveland and San Diego, Turner-led offenses have struggled getting two receivers into the top 24.
In the 2013, Josh Gordon barreled his way into a dominant performance for Cleveland, but the second receiver on that team, Greg Little, was held to just 465 yards, finishing as the WR73. It's worth noting that Jordan Cameron did finish as the TE5 in 2013.
His San Diego Chargers teams of 2007 through 2012 featured Vincent Jackson heavily, and he finished in the top 24 on three occasions. No other wideouts held that distinction, however, as the number-two target on those teams (number-one in some instances) was invariably tight end Antonio Gates.
Say what you will about the non-quantifiable talent discrepancies at receiver on these teams versus the 2019 Panthers, but Turner offenses have not historically heavily featured a WR2.
Week 1 Usage
Newton has averaged 486.4 attempts throughout his career with his most pass-heavy season in his career being his rookie year.
Christian McCaffrey has averaged no fewer than 118.5 targets over the last two seasons. The tight end position in Carolina has averaged a 25% target share, or 124 targets, over Cam’s career. In Week 1, he saw 11 targets, (30.6%).
Moore got to 9 targets (25.0%) to tie with Greg Olsen for second on the team. He played 94.0% of the snaps and accrued 41.9% of the team's air yards. Samuel was held to just 4 targets (11.1%) and had a tiny 11.6% air yards share.
The rest of the way, Moore is projected for 99.44 targets, and Samuel for 94.56. Combined, they'd barely crack 200 total targets through Week 17 and just barely surpass 100 on the full season each, with Samuel falling short.
Since 2000, only 50 receivers finished as top-24 fantasy performers while seeing fewer than 110 targets (11.0%), and only 23 did it on fewer than 100 (5.0%).
The players themselves are intriguing. Samuel’s stated advancement in his game and Moore’s grade-A collegiate profile means there is something to be had long term between the two. As Cam Newton's average depth of target continues to decrease from 10.4 in 2015 to 7.5 in 2018 expect higher workloads for underneath targets. Samuel's Week 1 depth of target was 6.3; Moore's was 9.0.
Moore ranks as our WR28 the rest of the way. Samuel is the WR37. Selling high after a big game -- especially on Samuel after concerning Week 1 volume -- may not be the worst idea.