With the NFL Draft and free agency having come and gone, we’ll break down all sorts of fantasy-relevant questions entering the 2018 season. Here we’ll look at the potential for Carolina’s Superman to return to MVP form.
In 2015, Cam Newton won the NFL MVP award and earned himself a Fantasy MVP as well; in the past five years, Newton’s 2015 season trails only Peyton Manning‘s historic 2013 season in terms of overall fantasy points.
Some of Newton’s feats that season include:
- 3,837 passing yards on only 495 attempts (7.8 yards per attempt, sixth in NFL)
- 35 passing touchdowns (tied for second) and a 7.1% touchdown rate (first)
- 636 rushing yards (first among quarterbacks)
- 10 rushing touchdowns (first among quarterbacks)
But that was three years ago. Can he repeat those numbers in 2018?
Supporting Cast Upgrade
Newton was given a top receiving prospect in D.J. Moore via the 2018 NFL Draft. Moore’s share of his college team’s offensive production and young breakout age are strong indicators of NFL success.
Newton will also presumably get a healthy Greg Olsen, which he was deprived of in 2017. Olsen is third in DraftKings points per game since 2014 with 13.7, per the our NFL Trends tool, and he racked up over 100 yards in two of his last four games to close out 2017 (including playoffs).
Newton also gets another offseason to build chemistry with receiving back Christian McCaffrey and speedy 2017 second-round wide receiver Curtis Samuel. Add in a post-breakout Devin Funchess, and this could be the best supporting cast of Newton’s career.
The Path to a Repeat of 2015
In order to reach the level of fantasy production he saw in 2015, Newton would have to score an extraordinary amount of touchdowns in both the running and passing game again. The only other time he topped 10 rushing touchdowns besides in 2015 was in his 2011 rookie year, while his 35 passing touchdowns were over 10 more than his next-best season (24 in 2013).
In 2015 Cam Newton threw 35 touchdowns on 495 attempts. His top receiver was Ted Ginn. He rushed for 10 touchdowns on 132 attempts. In 2017 he threw 3 fewer times and rushed 7 more times…for 13 fewer passing scores and 4 fewer rushing. This tweet is sponsored by randomness. pic.twitter.com/nfSdbvx9xS
— Kyle Dvorchak (@ffkylethekid) June 16, 2018
Newton’s receiving corps was far from ideal in 2015, yet he still had his best season to date — because touchdowns are random. Well, not completely random, but very high-variance.
And if touchdowns are largely random, the best way for a player to increase their odds of scoring them is by upping the number of opportunities they get. For fantasy, this means more attempts — and that’s exactly what Newton had last season:
Newton saw a slight uptick in passing attempts and a career-high in rushing attempts. However, they were counteracted by slightly below-average scoring rates which led to suppressed scoring totals. If Newton can sustain that type of volume in new coordinator Norv Turner’s offense, his rate of scoring should regress back to his career averages — leaving the door open for another MVP-caliber season.
High Floor, High Ceiling
Newton’s arm has never been the driving force of his fantasy points. His career year in terms of passing touchdowns was his aforementioned 2015 MVP season with 35 scores, which is tied for 32nd all-time with guys like Eli Manning and Blake Bortles; expecting another outlier passing season from him would be a bad bet.
Instead, Newton gets his fantasy value from his rushing ability. Over his career, he’s averaged 118 rushing attempts for 617 yards and 7.7 touchdowns per season. His legs make him a fantasy threat against any defense in any situation. In fact, he holds the record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in NFL history (14, in his 2011 rookie campaign).
His rushing gives him a naturally high floor — he’s finished no lower than QB5 in fantasy points per game in five of his seven NFL seasons — with a built-in monster ceiling if he hits on the positive side of variance.
The Bottom Line
Newton has the weapons and the opportunity to put up big numbers in 2018, and even if he doesn’t quite return to MVP form, he’s one of the highest-floor picks on the board.
Pictured above: Cam Newton
Photo credit: Bob Donnan – USA TODAY Sports