Cam Newton’s Fantasy Football Outlook in New England

Superman now flies over New England. Patriots fans are pointing towards the sky. “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, that’s Cam!”

The Patriots addition of Cam Newton on a team-friendly, one-year contract has the potential to change the scope of the AFC East, where New England now appears to have a real opportunity to extend a division champion run that dates back to the 2009 season. Newton has an opportunity to revive a sagging NFL career that has been on a downswing since 2016.

From fantasy football perspectives, Newton now becomes more of an intriguing draft target as a second quarterback. Most fantasy players will not tab him as a starter in standard one-QB leagues. He does have the potential to make a very significant impact in two-QB and superflex formats.

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Eyeing a Return to Fantasy Respectability

Newton’s has been been plagued by well-documented injury issues over the past two seasons, but published reports have indicated that his current health outlook is positive. Videos of recent workouts on social media have been viewed as encouraging, and he reportedly passed a physical in late May.

When we last saw him for a full season in 2017, he rushed for a career-best 754 yards and finished as the second-highest scoring QB in fantasy football. In the 2018 campaign that was marred by shoulder issues, he still ended up with the best completion percentage of his career (67.5), and his 7.2 yards per attempt were his highest since the 2015 MVP year.

In his career-best season of ’15, Newton stood out by throwing for 35 TD passes and rushing for 10 scores, with 3,837 passing yards and 636 rushing yards. He has not thrown for more than 24 TD passes in a season since then, with a total of 15 rushing TDs. There are also obvious concerns about his age, as he recently turned 31.

That is not “old” for a standard NFL QB, yet Newton’s style of play makes his age a bit more concerning than it would for most others at his position. His fantasy appeal was heavily tied to his rushing abilities and he was never a consistently outstanding passer. But when you consider he has not played since Week 3 of the 2019 season, he also had much time to heal and recover.

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From a dynasty perspective, Newton’s age and brand of play can be larger concerns, but should not be considered as highly negative factors in redraft formats. While many NFL analysts mention 2015 as his last impressive season, the 2017 finish indicates that his last healthy campaign was a very good one for fantasy purposes. If he is indeed healthy heading into the 2020 season, he has a good chance of re-emerging as a good fantasy starter.

How He Fits in New England

The Patriots were reportedly planning to adjust their offense to feature more run/pass options under previously projected starter Jarrett Stidham, and now should certainly do so with Newton as QB. Josh McDaniels is a coordinator that will likely do his best to mold his offense around the talents and skills of his key players, rather than forcing them to adjust to his schemes. The Patriots seem to have a mediocre crew of playmakers around Newton, but he has dealt with shaky supporting casts before, and the Patriots are already built to suit his abilities.

Bill Belichick appears to be planning to win games by relying on a strong defense and a RPO attack on offense, one that will be new for him and McDaniels after two decades of employing the most successful classic drop-back passer of all time. It will be on McDaniels to prove he can effectively revise the offense without Tom Brady, so he may have something to prove as well.

The Patriots do have a variety of running backs that can work with Newton as RPO partners, and their offensive line was ranked 10th by Pro Football Focus last season. If most of the key players on the unit stay healthy, Newton could be working behind one of the best lines in the league. His receiving crew is not going to scare anyone, yet they should mesh well with Newton if they play close to expectations.

The New England offense can be viewed through a somewhat similar lens as Baltimore’s, with a dual threat QB who can keep defenses off balance. Newton is not going to post Lamar Jackson sort of totals, obviously, and none of his RBs look nearly as good as Mark Ingram proved to be last season. But you could make a case that he has a comparable receiving crew in terms of quality.

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The Patriots staff may be more calculating about when to run Newton, and could utilize a rotation of RBs that can challenge defenses in various ways. Sony Michel and Damien Harris are power types, James White is a proven receiving threat, and Rex Burkhead is known for his versatility.

Julian Edelman is certainly capable of at least decent production even though he is 34, and when you consider Belichick spent a first round pick on a WR last year for the first time, N’Keal Harry cannot be overlooked. Both Edelman and Harry fit the mold of what New England will likely do offensively, depending on the running game while relying on receivers that can take quick-hitting throws and gain yardage after the catch. Mohamed Sanu and White add further significant options to Newton’s new grouping of pass-catchers and round out the contingent adequately.

In his MVP season, Newton had Greg Olsen to work with, yet best WRs were Ted Ginn Jr. and Jerricho Cotchery, who combined for 83 catches. In 2017, Christian McCaffery caught 80 passes, but his top receivers otherwise were Devin Funchess (63) and Kelvin Benjamin (32). Newton has never worked with a very productive overall group of pass-catchers, yet has still managed to perform as one of the better QBs in fantasy football.

Player Gms Rec Yds TD Greg Olsen 16 77 1,104 7 Ted Ginn Jr. 15 44 739 10 Jerricho Cotchery 14 39 485 3 Corey Brown 14 31 447 4 Devin Funchess 16 31 473 5

Cam Newton’s leading receivers from his 2015 MVP season

From an intangibles perspective, Newton obviously has a lot riding on how he performs this season. He will be attempting to resurrect himself as a quality player and to secure a better future for himself after this season, whether it is with the Patriots or somewhere else. Those motivating factors can certainly add extra potential for a comeback and cannot be left out of consideration fantasy wise.

Where to Draft Newton in 2020

Newton should be targeted as a Top 15-16 fantasy QB, one who is a curious upside case in standard one QB formats, and as a possible difference-maker in two-QB and superflex formats. I will be revising my rankings on to slot him in at 16th, Just behind Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger (another tempting comeback candidate) and Daniel Jones. He will be just ahead of Ryan Tannehill.

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In a one QB league, Jones is going as QB13 in current FFPC drafts, with Kirk Cousins as 14. I would expect Newton to overtake Cousins in that spot/range. If you do land Newton in the neighborhood of Cousins’ current overall ADP of 120, project him as either an upside play to give you a good problem if he reclaims his better form. You may have to choose between Newton and another notable option every week, or you could have a very attractive trade chip at some point. If not, you may use him for a one week play or can even waive Newton for a better backup.

In two QB and superflex formats, Newton has a tempting ceiling, but the floor is unclear. You will have to grab a decent third starter in case he disappoints. I will project him for about 3,250 passing yards, 450 rushing yards, 21 TD passes and five TD runs, but there can be a lot of variance from those markers. In a dynasty league, there is some promise as a QB1 this year and for another season or two if he bounces back.

Impact on Other Key Patriots

Stidham is not expected to beat out a healthy Newton for a starting job, of course, but Belichick nearly headed into this year with him as the starter, so he is still worth a deep dynasty stash if Newton only plays one season in New England. If Edelman stays on the field, he still can be a fantasy WR3.

That should be his ceiling, as not working with Brady, plus the age factor, are apparent concerns that could spark a decline. Harry now becomes a more alluring late rounder, as he could become a busy playmaker for Newton. Not only does he have YAC promise, Harry also can make some dazzling grabs if he plays up to his potential.

Sanu may factor in as a starter if Edelman gets injured, starts to fall off or Harry struggles, so he has some fantasy WR potential. White still has some flex appeal. Michel now become a more interesting play. Working in an RPO situation, he could be more productive. The strong chance of a committee situation, though, keeps him in lower-end RB3 territory.

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