Superman was in Crown Town last year.
Cam Newton took the league by storm with his 14 rushing touchdowns in 2011. To put that into perspective, that was the most in the league by any player not named LeSean McCoy.
And with Newton’s success came the resurgence of Steve Smith. The outspoken wide receiver came back after two subpar seasons, surprising the league with almost 1,400 yards and 7 touchdowns. His numbers were good for 6th in the league in standard scoring fantasy points.
Can the Panthers repeat their unexpected offensive production from last year? Should we be willing to rank them higher than how they performed just a season ago?
I’m still wary about drafting…
Cam Newton. Forget the sophomore slump thing – that’s all bogus. The league has changed and second-year quarterbacks don’t always take a step backwards during their second season anymore. Deal with it.
From a fantasy football perspective, here’s what I like about Cam Newton:
1. He brings a rushing element to your fantasy football team.
14 touchdowns? Are you kidding me?
2. He’s young.
The fact is, Cam Newton hasn’t reached his potential yet. And that’s really, really frightening.
3. He’s not afraid of throwing the ball down field.
As a rookie, Newton ranked 10th in average yards per completion, and 11th in 40+ yard passing plays.
4. He’s a physical beast.
I’m not worried about injury, even if he’s running the ball three times more than the average running quarterback.
Here’s what I don’t like about Cam Newton:
1. His team loses when he throws the ball often.
When the Panthers won, Newton averaged throwing the ball 24.16 times per game. When they lost, this number was 37.2. Compare that to quarterbacks in 2011 like Matthew Stafford (37 per win vs. 48.8 per loss), Ben Roethlisberger (32.8 per win vs. 38 per loss), and Andy Dalton (30.2 per win vs. 34.9 per loss). Oh, and Cam didn’t throw a single interception in all six Panther wins last year.
2. We’ve got a small sample size.
While this can be to Cam’s advantage, it’s probably more to his disadvantage considering he had a record breaking season a year ago. It’s going to be tough for the guy to do what he did last year because of his rushing numbers.
3. He’s an early round risk.
I can’t say that I’m any more confident in Cam Newton finishing as a top quarterback compared to some of the second round running backs. Keep in mind, in order for Cam to finish as a top quarterback, he has less room for error because fewer quarterbacks are started in a typical fantasy league.
I’m sure you’re reading this and shaking your head “no”, but really, that’s how I feel. I’m all for taking chances, but I like taking them in the mid to later rounds of my draft. (Remember, people – pre-season fantasy football analysis is and should be opinionated.)
4. Mike Tolbert is in Carolina now.
Was Tolbert simply an insurance policy for Jonathan Stewart? I’m not sure. Tolbert not only brings the rushing attack to a new level in Carolina, but his signing makes it appear as though the Panthers are completely aware of point number 1: The Panthers need to run the ball to win.
When I complete my rankings for the 2012 season, Cam Newton will still be the 5th player on my list. I think he’s better than 50% of fantasy starters. The problem, like a lot of these players, is that he’s a big a risk that soon in a draft, and I hate drafting quarterbacks early. Hate it.
Remember not to forget…
Brandon LaFell. I’m high on him as a sleeper this year, considering the WR2 position on the Panthers is wide open. Ron Rivera has actually said that Brandon LaFell will play opposite of Steve Smith Week 1, so I’ll take coach’s word for it.
LaFell was great in college, and came out of LSU as a third round pick two seasons ago. He disappointed his first two seasons, but last year showed some signs that he really is a talent at wide receiver. He averaged 17 yards after catch in 2011, ranking in the top 20 in the category. The main reason I love him, however, is because of where he’s going in most fantasy drafts: as the 50th receiver taken.
If there’s a late round wide receiver that you can get value from, I believe it’s him. I can’t see him finishing below where he’s being drafted, and as his targets increase with his promoted role in 2012, he could become a WR2 or WR3 in the fantasy world.
I still don’t know what to do with…
The Panthers’ running back situation. I’ve never, ever owned DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart on one of my fantasy football teams. Their season outputs are about as predictable as what Ron Artest will say in an interview with the media.
If I had to pick one of the two, I’d go with Stewart. While DeAngelo is getting drafted higher, Jonathan Stewart is in a contract year. He also got more looks than Williams in the offense last year, and if Mike Tolbert is going to impact one of the two backs, it’s going to be Williams. Stewart is also younger at 25 years of age. Williams turned 29 in April.
The one word to describe the 2012 Panthers is…
Fun. I think this offense has an opportunity to be one of the best in the NFL in just a couple of years. But before that, I can’t see a reason to draft any of the players on this team in the early rounds. Cam Newton has more potential than any quarterback in the league, but it’s going to be tough to replicate what he did on the ground last year. Brandon LaFell has an opportunity to be this year’s steal in the later rounds of the draft, and again, I’m staying far away from the backs in Charlotte.