Cam Newton to New England: Rapid Reaction

If you’ve been hiding under a rock this week, Cam Newton has signed with the New England Patriots. There was plenty of pre-draft speculation that Belichick would sign Newton prior to the NFL draft, but his patience has paid off. Now that the quarterback market has completely evaporated, Belichick has signed a former NFL MVP, who is only 31 years old for cents on the dollar.

Whilst the full details have not yet been released, Patriots insider Mike Reiss has confirmed on ESPN it is an incentive-laden deal. As much as I would love to write 800 words on why Bill Belichick runs rings around the rest of the league, you came here for my thoughts on the Cam Newton signing so let’s get to it!

Career to Date

Cam Newton is one of the most polarizing quarterbacks in football. He’s maligned for his post-game couture and chastised for failing to dive on the football in the Super Bowl. Whether these are valid criticisms or not, some think Cam Newton is a quality starting quarterback, and some are wrong. The man is pure electricity on the gridiron. 

His sub 60% career completion percentage is not ideal, but his game is predicated on big plays downfield, and extending plays outside of the pocket using his elite mobility:

His passing numbers only paint half the picture, with his rushing contributions a key part of his game:

For someone who is perceived as injury-prone, Cam had only missed five games in eight years before his disastrous 2019 campaign. When he has been healthy, Cam has been nothing short of an elite fantasy asset, failing to finish outside the top five on a point per game basis when he plays 16 games:

Even the years where he was hurt, he certainly didn’t bust. Fantasy quarterbacks don’t come more reliable than Cam Newton. He has a rock-solid floor thanks to his rushing ability, and incredible touchdown upside because of his usage at the goal line. Since coming into the league, Cam has three times the number of rushing scores than Russell Wilson, despite playing in three fewer games:

Pass Catchers

It’s fair to say the Patriots are not overflowing with talent in their receiver and tight end room. Establish the Run’s Adam Levitan is certainly not optimistic:

But maybe it’s not all doom and gloom. Edelman might be 34 years old, but he just posted his most productive season to finish as the WR10 on a point per game basis. His current ADP of WR37 makes him cheap enough to take a chance on this year.

N’Keal Harry didn’t hit the ground running, but his large frame and 81st percentile catch radius could mesh well with Cam whose accuracy can let him down from time to time. Notably, Harry and Devin Funchess have almost identical catch radius. Whilst Funchess was never an elite fantasy contributor, he performed well whenever Greg Olsen (Cam’s primary target) was out injured, seeing an increase of nearly four fantasy points per game. I’m curious to see what Cam and Harry can put together, especially with Harry’s separation issues and Newton’s willingness to make aggressive throws into tight windows. I’m even more curious about his current ADP of WR60. No other player within touching distance of that ADP has a chance to lead their team in targets. 

Was Mohamed Sanu worth the second-round pick the Patriots inexplicably traded for him? Certainly not, but he was also playing hurt and required offseason surgery to fix an ankle issue. He’s going undrafted, but for good reason. I’m not interested in Sanu at all this year but I am excited to see him throw a touchdown to Cam Newton when Josh McDaniel dives into his bag of tricks. He’s reliable enough to move the chains and keep Cam scoring points.

I’m not trying to sell you on the idea that this an elite group of weapons, but is it worse than what Cam has worked with before? He helped a rookie Kelvin Benjamin finish as the WR16! Here are all of Carolina’s wide receivers from 2011 to 2019 (Pro Football Reference):

The Patriots roster may not be the finished article either. With Cam now under contract, the Patriots may look to bolster this group. Could a reunion with either Josh Gordon or Antonio Brown be in the cards? Unlikely… but a boy can dream!

(Oh, and Josh Gordon isn’t washed. You can @ me about it too!)

Injuries

We can prognosticate about Cam’s fantasy outlook until we are blue in the face, but none of it will matter if he can’t stay healthy. At the back end of 2018, Newton struggled with a shoulder injury which then required surgery in early 2019. According to reports, this surgery went well, but unfortunately, a foot injury derailed his comeback. He was only able to muster two lackluster performances before being missing the rest of the season.  

We can only analyze the information available to us, and per reports, Cam has recovered from both ailments and is ready to play.

Sports Injury Predictor doesn’t even project Newton to miss a full game this season, but he still understandably classified as a high-risk player.

2020 Outlook

I truly believe there is no middle ground for Cam this season. If he is healthy, his talent and body of work show us that he will likely finish as a top 10 quarterback. On the other hand, if the foot and/or shoulder injuries flare back up he might not even finish the season. There may not be a quarterback in the NFL with such a wide range of outcomes. I am willing to take a risk on Cam (I have been all offseason drafting him in best-ball leagues and trading for him in dynasty leagues).

And for what it’s worth, I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks that way: just by signing with the Patriots, the average odds for Cam Newton to win the MVP in 2020 went from being in the Jameis Winston range to just behind Aaron Rodgers. That’s quite different company to be in for a QB who should still be his prime.

Whilst his value has certainly increased since the weekend, it might be easier to trade for Newton today. Those who roster Cam have been waiting to trade him for some sort of value – now they can do it, but it can still be a bargain. Don’t wait until training camp reports start making waves! I understand being hesitant over drafting/trading for Newton, and whilst his price has increased, his upside is too tantalizing to ignore. Remember, “scared money don’t make money”! 

Thanks for taking the time to read my quick thoughts on Cam Newton to New England. What do you think of Cam? Come and argue on the internet about it with me @FF_DownUnder! And just in case you have forgotten what Cam is capable of, I will leave you with this.

 

 

lglover

English Australia-based writer for @DFF_Dynasty & ADP Specialist for @DFF_ADP. #DFFArmy #DynastyFootball #ADP Find me on Twitter @FF_DownUnder Patriots and Seminoles fan. Lover of beer, scotch, and red wine.

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