“You don’t tug on Superman’s cape,
You don’t spit into the wind,
You don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger,
And you don’t mess around with” Cam, Newton that is!
Well, Superman might not live up to Jim Croce’s expectations this year. Before we jump into the reasons to avoid Newton, let’s look at the Cam we know and love. Last year, he finished 3rd in fantasy points for QBs. He has finished in the top 4 every year he has been a pro. In those three years, he has thrown for at least 3,300 yards every season. He has at least 27 total touchdowns in every season. He is the definition of a dual threat QB.
Alright, here it is, my devil’s advocate speech. I don’t think I even need to invoke Al Pacino in order to win this argument.
If Cam does not score a rushing TD, his fantasy output suffers severely. If you look at his rushing numbers, they have dwindled every season. Currently, there is not one wide receiver on roster that caught a pass from him in 2013. As always, I like to look at trends. So, let us focus on how he played in 2013. Last year was his lowest totals for rushing attempts, yards, and rushing TDs. Last year also marked career lows in the passing department. In 2013, he turned out his lowest attempts, lowest passing yardage, lowest yardage per attempt, lowest per completion, and lowest total yards per game. He only had one game over 300 yards. He did however, have six games where he did not even reach 200 yards passing. In the last five games, he averaged 10th in fantasy points per game. In the last three games, his average in fantasy points per game fell to 16th. In 2014, the Panthers have the 13th easiest schedule for quarterbacks this year. Last year, they were ranked 7th. Now, Cam has a whole new receiving core to get accustomed to. Granted the rookie, Kelvin Benjamin, has looked good in the preseason, but how about the rest of the crew? On roster, he will be throwing to Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, and Tiquan Underwood. The pro Cam side has stated the fact that he has always worked with unknown receivers before. Well, I say to you Mr. Underwood, you sir, are no Steve Smith. Oh yeah, one more fact to sure this debate up. Superman suffered a cracked rib in the 3rd preseason game, not to mention his most recent ankle surgery was in March. As they say in tennis: Game. Sip. Macked… Bitch! What, like you really watch Wimbledon either?
Alright, even though Cam should be sliding down your tiers, he does have a good looking rookie receiver. Kelvin Benjamin has been getting a lot of hype, and perhaps deservedly so.
The one thing he has going for him is his athleticism and perhaps, the lack of positional competition. But damn, does everyone have him as their rookie pick or what? As of his ADP in late August, he is going in the middle of the 8th round in 12 team leagues. It was just one short month ago, Benjamin’s ADP was the start of the 11th round. He falls in the 50’s for the Pyro collective wide receiver tiers. His ADP has him going in the late 30’s. Personally, he falls in the low 40’s for me. He is easy to fall for, especially given the lack of competition. Benjamin is a big guy but lacks speed and ups. He is 6”5’ and 240 pounds, but only ran a 4.61 and has a vertical leap of merely 32.5 inches. He does not possess breakaway speed, and was not known for his route running, nor his run after the catch. So, this means he will most likely end up with TDs as he is a red zone mismatch, but chances are, he will not have those big yardage games that often give you those extra points. If your league awards for this, or long scores, Benjamin falls down the tier sheet a bit. Like I said, he could be a TD monster. The Panthers come in to 2014 with the 8th best WR schedule. But, keep this stat in mind, in the history of the NFL, there have only been 8 rookie wide receivers to go for 1,000 yards. Personally, if there is a rookie that is going to make it 9, my money (and D-rx’s for that matter) is on Brandin Cooks. For more info on this, check out Houdini’s piece “Does Height Matter for Wide Receivers?”
Looking at the rest of the receivers in Carolina, it makes you want to simultaneously bump Benjamin up your tiers, and then adjust Cam down. Out of the remainders, Cotchery has the best shot at fantasy relevance. Avant and Underwood will not make any of my rosters, nor should they be on yours if you want to roll into the playoffs. Cotchery could actually be a sneaky pick up. Although he has been in the league since 2004, and has only gone for over 1,000 yards once, he might just lead the team in yardage. After all, look how Smith had a resurgence with Newton on his team. Smith was in his 11th season when Newton came to Carolina. He more than doubled his yardage and TD totals from the previous year. Now, Cotchery is also going into his 11th year and it will be his first with cam Newton. I don’t know if he will have as much success as Smith did that first year, but I think it is safe to say Cotchery should see a significant jump in his stats playing with Cam. Jerricho is more of a route runner than Benjamin. Still, comparing the two, Benjamin will score more fantasy points, but Cotchery might have some value as he is currently going undrafted. In Pyro’s collective tiers, Cotchery is ranked in the high 60’s right in the neighborhood of Rod Streater and Andrew Hawkins. Even if he goes undrafted, he could be one to watch on the waiver wire if indeed Cam relies on the veteran’s steady performances week in and week out.
If it is reliability you are after, than look no further than Greg Olsen. Lord knows Cam will be looking for a familiar face out there, and we do not mean Owen Wilson. But you have to admit, there is some similarity there.
The fact that Olsen will be one of the very few players on the team that actually caught a pass from Superman last year will undoubtedly work in his favor. Pyro has Olsen rated inside the top 10 for tight end. He does have a tough go of it this year; the Panthers are ranked with the 29th easiest schedule at the tight end position. There could be several weeks where Olsen leads all Panthers in receptions. If you are in a PPR league, this could be Olsen’s biggest year to date. In fact, in our PPR mock draft, Olsen actually went ahead of Cam. Doing mocks is one of the best ways to prepare for your draft. I would say it is second only to listening to the Pyro podcast. So, we combined both into one earth shattering event.
Olsen does not get the respect he deserves. In the last six season, he has played in every single game. Last year, his 73 receptions was a career high. Although he did not post a 100 yard game last year, I think that will change in 2014. Besides, when drafting Olsen, you get solid production week in and week out. He is a guy you can plug in and have a steady performance week in and week out. In 2012, he was the 6th best fantasy tight end. Last year, he ranked #8. The situation in Carolina should allow a repeat of those numbers if not improve upon them.
Turning to the running game, Carolina uses a committee approach with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart working as the two main backs. Mike Tolbert gets most of the goal line looks. In order to capture what it actually feels like to own one of these players, Pyro secretly recorded a Williams owner checking his team’s performance on Monday morning. Let’s watch!
They have a tough road to hoe in 2014. They are ranked with the 25th easiest schedule. Pyro’s collective tiers shows the Carolina backs roughly in the same neighborhood. Williams is in the low 40’s with Tolbert actually coming in next. He and Stewart are found in the low to mid 50’s. Personally, I have these guys moved even farther down my tiers. I will not have a Carolina RB on any of my teams. One, health is always a concern. Two, you never know who, if any, will have the hot hand. Three, if you count Newton, there are four guys that could score a rushing touchdown on any given Sunday. Look, I want to win my league. I take the Ricky Bobby approach. “If you ain’t first, your last”.
The goal is to win week in and week out. That means you are going to have to take some chances, go for the high ceiling guys. I don’t mind some stability to your line up, sprinkle in some steady guys to balance your roster, but drafting a Carolina running back is a sure way to find yourself in 5th place. Let’s face it, if you want to “piss excellence” guess which word of the two these running backs are missing?
Finally, on the defensive end, Carolina finished most leagues as the number 3 ranked defense. That is exactly where they are being drafted as of late August. Pyro is down on them defensively, ranking them outside the top 12. They lost many of their secondary in the offseason. Not to mention, they play in the NFC South, with teams like New Orleans, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay all boasting big play guys in their passing game. With Carolina’s suspect secondary, they could be in some high scoring affairs. In many leagues, points allowed is where the defensive position draws the majority of its scoring. If they are going against big guns like Breeze and Ryan, chances are Carolina’s defense will allow some major scoring this year. Do not draft them expecting a repeat of last year’s performance. There are far better defensive units to be had in the last round of your draft.