Why Cam Newton Will Dominate Fantasy Football Leagues Again
Cam Newton has gotten both himself, and the 3-0 Carolina Panthers, off to a hot start this year.
He currently ranks fourth among quarterbacks in ESPN standard scoring, and coming off back-to-back 25-plus point weeks, his arrow seems to be pointing up firmly. The big question fantasy owners should be asking themselves is whether or not he can maintain his high level of play.
The most obvious point in Newton's favor is that he's played at this level before.
From 2011 to 2013, he finished third, fourth, and third in quarterback scoring in each respective season. Last year, he only played 14 games and fell all the way to 17th among quarterbacks, but with the way he's played so far this year, it's starting to look like last season's disappointment was more of an aberration than a trend.
Just assuming that Newton is back to his old self is still way too bullish. Instead it is important to examine what factors are contributing to Newton's success.
As a passer, he's been efficient, but not wildly so. His Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) of 13.90 ranks 13th among quarterbacks, but more importantly, his Passing NEP per drop back of 0.13 represents a significant improvement over last year's 0.04. It could be that he's due to regress back toward where he was last year, but it's also believable that a clean bill of health is what is causing his jump in efficiency.
Last year, Panthers coach Ron Rivera stated that Newton dealt with "constant nagging soreness" in both his ribs and ankles, but this year he has not so far dealt with a single injury. I'm no doctor, but it seems plausible that a healthy body is a big part of the reason why he's returning to form.
Newton's passing efficiency is nice, but as fantasy owners know, it's his ability to run the ball that makes him such an exciting fantasy asset. Without lingering ankle soreness, he's been taking every opportunity he can to run; his 31 rushes so far this year would put him on pace for 165 rushing attempts on the year, a potential career high, and significantly more rushing opportunity than last year's career-low 103 attempts.
Such a torrid pace is likely to decline, but it is encouraging that Newton has managed to match his volume with efficiency. In fact, his Rushing NEP of 10.74 is nearly 3 full points ahead of Tyrod Taylor's 7.77. He's also second in the league in Rushing NEP across all positions (Karlos Williams, 14.97).
Looking forward, there doesn't seem to be any strong reason for negative regression. He's passing the ball well and running in spades, and he looks to have a pretty easy schedule going forward.
As a member of the NFC South, Newton is set to play New Orleans once more, Atlanta twice, and Tampa Bay twice as well. All currently rank in the bottom 11 of our Adjusted Defensive NEP per play metrics.
Valuing Newton in Fantasy Football
As a fantasy player, there isn't an obvious course of action to take. If you're a Newton owner, holding him is probably the best option. Our algorithms peg him as the second-best quarterback for the rest of the year, but it's unlikely you can get that type of value for him in return.
If you're not a Newton owner, the answer isn't a simple "buy" either. As numberFire's Editor-in-Chief JJ Zachariason explained after Tony Romo got injured, trading for quarterbacks isn't typically a very good move. Unless you can get Cam for a ridiculously good price, it is probably not worth giving up value at other positions for an upgrade at quarterback because of how replaceable the position is on the waiver wire.
But for all intents and purposes, it seems like Cam Newton is back to his dominant fantasy self.