Cam Newton is heading back to the Carolina Panthers. Today, he signed a one-year, $10 million deal with $4.5 million guaranteed. The P.J. Walker era was over before it began, and the Sam Darnold era could be officially over in the next few weeks. What is Newton’s realistic fantasy football outlook, and how excited should you be to add him off your waiver wire ahead of Week 10?
Should fantasy managers add Cam Newton off the Week 10 waiver wire?
My colleague Jason Katz wrote last month that “If we’ve learned anything about quarterbacks in fantasy football over the past decade, it’s that rushing is king. Far worse quarterbacks than Cam Newton have been QB1s on running ability alone.” Jason’s sentiments sum up Newton’s likely outlook in Carolina, assuming he earns the starting job. In other words, we should be relatively bullish about his upside.
Here’s the case: Last year, Newton earned 17.4 fantasy points per game, putting him inches ahead of Joe Burrow and 0.1 points behind Drew Brees and Matt Ryan. His top two receivers were Jakobi Meyers and Damiere Byrd, followed by the mostly injured Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry. The team’s tight ends were Ryan Izzo, Dalton Keene, and Devin Asiasi.
For context, four of these players have not seen action in 2021. Byrd has 4 catches for 29 yards. Harry has 5 catches for 77 yards. Only Meyers was good enough to still be relevant one season later.
So let’s not pretend Newton is washed up. Last year, he was given little chance to succeed. Yet, he almost single-handedly won games that a middling pocket passer probably couldn’t. For example, narrow wins in Weeks 9 and 10 against the Jets and Ravens, when he averaged above 75% completion rates while collecting 4 touchdowns (all on the ground) and 0 turnovers.
Newton’s 2021 fantasy outlook
Of course, fantasy managers should add Newton off waivers. He would have been an upgrade over Darnold weeks ago. However, I understand Carolina’s reasoning for wanting to stick with their $30 million “franchise” quarterback. Newton certainly should be an upgrade over Walker and would instantly have a positive impact on an offense that has only 1 touchdown in its last three games.
One other stat to consider: Darnold had an average of 2.94 seconds to throw the ball — the fifth-longest among NFL QBs, and more time than Newton had last season or any other recent season. Don’t judge Newton’s upside by comparing it to Darnold’s production. Newton is entering an environment where he could thrive.
How might Newton’s signing impact Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore?
Newton could boost both of the Panthers’ marquee offensive weapons. Christian McCaffrey will be reunited with his first NFL quarterback — someone whose versatility in the running game should help open up the offense.
Meanwhile, DJ Moore has struggled as Darnold has struggled. Those WR1 days in September and early October seem like distant memories. But with Robby Anderson owning the league’s worst catch percentage (35.8%) of any starting WR, and Terrace Marshall Jr. trailing off after a promising September, Moore should remain the clear-cut No. 1 receiver in Carolina.