Cam Newton ranked third in on-target throw percentage on passes of 10-plus yards, and led the NFL in on-target percentage on throws for 20-plus yards in 2020.
That would likely surprise folks given his poor raw stats in New England and the fact his shoulder has suffered so much damage over the years. Considering the players around him and the circumstances he found himself in last year, perhaps it’s not shocking that his individual play was “fine” while his stats were so hideous.
Of course, he was far from blameless for the Patriots’ miserable offense. Newton really struggled on short throws in 2020.
Perhaps playing with an improved supporting cast is going to fix that. It’s still a bit of a stretch to assume Newton, at this stage, fixes all that ails the Panthers.
One thing is for sure: Signing Cam Newton almost can’t possibly make it worse in Carolina. After some cute little weeks early in the season, Sam Darnold is ... exactly who he was in New York.
Sam Darnold in Carolina
▪️ 60.3 PFF Grade
▪️ -4.9 CPOE
▪️ -.025 EPA/Play
▪️ 6.5 YPA
Sam Darnold in New York
▪️ 60.4 PFF Grade
▪️ -1.8 CPOE
▪️ -.026 EPA/Play
▪️ 6.6 YPA
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) November 11, 2021
Darnold actively and completely tanked this offense over the last few weeks. He’s been one of the worst starters in the NFL this year, just like he was with the Jets, and Matt Rhule has been openly admitting in press conferences he’d like to hide his quarterback. Darnold left this offense in a mess before being placed on IR and it’s unlikely P.J. Walker is the guy to clean it up.
Walker will start this week in Arizona but Newton is a virtual lock to reclaim his QB1 spot in Week 11 — and keep it the rest of the way.
DJ Moore currently ranks third in the NFL in targets and despite playing just 49 percent of the snaps in his first game off IR, Christian McCaffrey touched the ball 18 times last week. These guys still have the opportunity we want to be solid fantasy players. One of the benefits of signing Newton is that he walks off the bus with built-in, multi-year chemistry with these two. That wouldn’t be the case if this was some random off the street.
I’m willing to be optimistic and not tank either player in rest-of-season rankings — top-20ish wide receiver for Moore, top-five running back for McCaffrey. If Newton is even just an average starter, he’s going to move the offense and that’ll be a win for this duo. Beyond them, we’re still in wait-and-see mode with guys like Robby Anderson and Terrace Marshall (just 18 routes in his return from a concussion).
I think Cam Newton is around the QB15 in rest-of-season rankings (he was QB19 in points per game last year) and will no doubt keep the Panthers afloat. He’s not going to come in and suddenly fix everything but Newton will at least keep Carolina from being an utter embarrassment — well, other than serving as a hilarious reminder for how embarrassingly the Panthers have handled their quarterback spot since ousting him in 2020.
The Los Angeles Rams run 11-personnel on 85% of their plays — highest in the NFL
You may have heard that the Rams made a splashy acquisition to beef up their wide receiver room this week.
The decision for Odell Beckham reportedly came down to the Rams or Packers and some folks seemingly can’t understand why he’d pick the former because he isn’t going to get many targets. Well, for starters, if Beckham did go ahead and make the decision to play with the Rams, we can assume not averaging 8 to 10 targets per game isn’t some kind of deal-breaker. Obviously, there was much more to this decision than just the volume he was going to receive and if people can’t see beyond that, that’s a pretty limiting perspective.
Secondly, if Beckham truly decided to be the 2b or No. 3 receiver in Los Angeles was better than being the No. 2 receiver in Green Bay, that’s pretty sharp.
Since Johnny Mundt’s injury, the Rams have returned to their old ways of almost exclusively running three wide receiver sets. They’re at 85 percent for the season but 92 percent of plays since Week 6. The Rams rank fourth in pass attempts with 325 (Green Bay is 19th) and lead the NFL in neutral situation pace of play (Green Bay is 28th).
So is Beckham going to get a theoretical smaller slice of the pie in LA than he would have in other places? Maybe, but the ingredients going into baking the Rams’ offense right now could make that slice much tastier than almost any other destination in the NFL.
As long as Beckham is healthy and gets up to speed quickly with the offense, there’s every chance he just walks into LA and takes the No. 3 receiver gig. It’s a shame because Van Jefferson was playing well but Beckham is a better player even if he never returns to Giants’ form.
And please don’t mention the name DeSean Jackson in this equation. The pitch count plan for a 35-year-old Jackson has no influence on what the Rams will do with Beckham. This marriage can absolutely work.
From a bottom-line perspective, this move still keeps Beckham in the boom/bust weekly WR40ish territory the rest of the season. I always believed this next destination was more about a needed breakup with a quarterback where it wasn’t working, going to a place he “felt wanted” and could just put up some big games in big moments for a contending team rather than being the focal point of someone’s offense. Nailed it.
It most likely obviously crushes Van Jefferson’s outlook. Asking Cooper Kupp to keep up his “outpacing Calvin Johnson” output was always going to be a tough ask but he plays such an integral role in this offense I feel no need to move him down in rest-of-season rankings. Robert Woods also has to take a slight ding to the WR18-22 range rather than the top-12 play he’s been of late.
Mike Williams’ aDOT has lept to 14.1 since Week 5
That’s closer to that old boom-or-bust Williams role. He had a routine 10.2 average depth of target that showed he was getting full-field usage in Weeks 1 to 4.
We have to ask ourselves whether this role change is temporary due to Williams’ knee injury, the Chargers trying to find a solution to their deep game troubles, or something else. Williams is a strong WR2 in fantasy either way but how steady his production will be the rest of the year will hinge on the answer to that question.
Almost no matter what, Williams should be in lineups this week despite his cold stretch. The Vikings cornerback trio of Breeland, Dantzler and Alexander is a mess right now. Harrison Smith is looking likely to miss his second straight game and the Vikings IR list is packed with high-end talent. This should be the week Williams accesses his upside in a fantasy-friendly game script.
Courtland Sutton has six total targets since Jerry Jeudy came back
My primary concern with taking any Broncos’ pass-catcher at ADP during draft season was that there was a stone zero-percent chance that a Teddy Bridgewater offense would support two top-35 receivers and Noah Fant. My concerns remain and now we also have Tim Patrick playing a crucial role for this squad.
Courtland Sutton led the NFL in air yards in the first seven weeks of the season. He’s barely second on the team since Jeudy came back.
Jerry Jeudy has a great matchup as the team’s slot receiver on Sunday. The Eagles allow the highest completion percentage and have conceded dink-and-dunk throws all year. We watched Keenan Allen ring them up for double-digit catches last week. Meanwhile, Sutton is likely to draw shadow coverage from Darius Slay, who has played at a high level when tracking No. 1 wideouts across the field.
Diontae Johnson has a 46.2% share of the Steelers air yards since Week 6
The answer to who will get a boost in the wake of JuJu Smith-Schuster’s trip to IR has just been more Diontae Johnson.
With Chase Claypool likely out for a few weeks, it’s hard to fathom just how high Johnson’s opportunity could rise. With a matchup against the miserable Lions defense on Sunday, Johnson should rank inside the top-10 wide receivers this week.
Pat Freiermuth ranks 2nd in target share with 20% and scored thrice
The only other legitimate threat in Pittsburgh’s passing game right now is rookie Pat Freiermuth, who has played 78 and 71 percent of the snaps the last two weeks, respectively. He’s been a huge target in scoring areas. The rookie could be a TE1 the rest of the way.
The Steelers better not minimize his role for the sake of Eric Ebron.
Justin Fields: 18 carries (13 scrambles) over the last two weeks and 7.4 adjusted Y/A as a passer
We talked about buying the Seahawks during their bye week and it might be a good time to do the same for the Bears ... not that buying them will take too much effort.
Justin Fields has looked competent and, at times, downright exhilarating over his last two games. That’s enough to get me hoping this Bears offense can be functional going forward. Again, this was a laughable, barely NFL-level operation earlier this season. We can have some hope that the coaching staff and Fields have now completed the “feeling each other out” phase and the receivers are a bit more in sync now.
No one is expecting the Bears to turn into a beautiful ecosystem but we can hope for functional ability. The Bears get the Ravens and Lions coming out of the bye, two teams who can’t stop allowing explosive plays. David Montgomery is an ideal trade target after playing 85 percent of the snaps last week. Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney should both be on rosters; let’s hold out hope for these guys just a bit longer.