Could Cam Newton Be a 2015 Value?

Cam Newton

Last week I listed Cam Newton as one of May’s overdrafted MFL10 QBs, but I wrote, “Cam is a bit pricy for my taste as QB6, but if you believe he’ll return to form this year, you may disagree.” So I thought I’d go ahead and play devil’s advocate and take a look at what we might be ignoring. After all, Cam was a top-five fantasy quarterback in his first two seasons, so there is historical support for the idea that he can improve on last year’s performance.

Last year, Cam struggled first with a hairline fracture in his ribs, causing him to miss Week One, then broken bones in his back later in the season. Thankfully, Cam seems to have put those injuries behind him. In February, head coach Ron Rivera said, “[Cam] said for the first time in a long time he feels very, very good. His ankle, the one that he had surgically repaired, he feels really good about that. The ribs don’t bother him. The back doesn’t seem to bother him.”

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The better health is the first reason to consider Cam Newton as a quarterback target this year. Let’s take a look at a few others.

Carolina Has a Better Receiving Corps in 2015

 

Cam Newton threw passes to five wide receivers last year who had not caught a single pass for the Panthers before 2014. This year, several of those receivers return to the Panthers, and sophomore Kelvin Benjamin will have a full year of experience with the team and with his quarterback.

Additionally, early opinions are high on new addition Stephen Hill who hasn’t yet lived up to his hype coming out of college. Hill is a metrics phenom, who has so far disappointed amidst questions about his work ethic and attitude. This early in the year, however, reports are that Stephen Hill is impressing in OTAs and looking motivated.

Stephen Hill

I’m not ready to proclaim Hill a 2015 starter for the Panthers, but at the very least, it sounds like you’re saying there’s a chance. The addition of a 6’4″ receiver would be a boon to a quarterback who tends to miss high when he misses.

Cam Will Benefit from the Devin Funchess Bump
Additionally, the Panthers traded up in the second round of this year’s NFL draft to take Devin Funchess out of Michigan. Funchess is somewhere between a tight end and a wide receiver, and his strength is winning with his physicality and size.

After Newton’s accuracy dipped last year, a tall, physical wide receiver with the ability to bring down high passes will be a boost to the quarterback’s accuracy. For reference, here’s a video of some of Funchess’ college highlights where you see his physicality on display. (Warning: language.)

Drafters See Opportunity for Funchess
After the Panthers traded up to take Funchess, his stock has risen significantly in MFL10 drafts. That signals drafters’ recognition of the role Funchess will have in Carolina, a role that leads him to fantasy relevance sooner than if he’d landed in a crowded situation. Why should we expect Funchess to contribute this year?

First, Jason Avant left Carolina, so his 40 targets are immediately up for grabs. Additionally, there is a legitimate chance Funchess takes a share of the 134 targets Newton threw to Jerricho Cotchery, Philly Brown, and Brenton Bersin last season. Funchess is 2 to 4 inches taller than those receivers and has 20 pounds over even the heaviest of the three. That big-bodied target is a likely resource this season for an oft-inaccurate Cam Newton.

If we look at the pre- and post-draft ADPs of Cam and Funchess as compared to Amari Cooper, Derek Carr, Kevin White, and Jay Cutler, we see that Funchess is the only one of the six to see significant movement.

Cam Newton and Devin Funchess

Courtesy of @MikeMar05 – You can find his file for sale here https://mfl10adp.blogspot.com

This suggests that the market may have already priced in the addition of a talented wide receiver to Carr and Cutler’s prices, which meant there was no need for an ADP bump post-draft. Similarly, Cooper and White were already drafted early because of the assumption they’d quickly have an important role wherever they landed.

Funchess, however, has seen a price increase because of a widespread belief that he’ll have an impact this season. That fantasy impact isn’t reflected in any boost at all to Cam Newton’s price. When a veteran player’s ADP doesn’t change after the NFL draft, it suggests nothing has changed in his predicted situation. If you believe, instead, that the addition of Devin Funchess improved Cam Newton’s situation, Cam should now be worth something above his pre-draft ADP. That would make him a present-day value.

Is Cam a Value at QB6?

So at the end of the day, I am not convinced Cam Newton will be a value if he maintains his QB6 ADP, but there are non-trivial indicators that he should improve on last year’s finish and potentially flirt with his prior QB5 numbers. I’m not convinced enough to draft him as a top-six quarterback, but I can understand if you are.

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