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Fantasy football: Be wary about picking Cam Newton in first round

Cam Newtran for 14 touchdowns last seasbut he will be hard-pressed come close thnumber this season.  |  Jeff

Cam Newton ran for 14 touchdowns last season, but he will be hard-pressed to come close to that number this season. | Jeff Zelevansky~Getty Images

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1. Aaron Rodgers

2. Tom Brady

3. Drew Brees

4. Matthew Stafford

5. Cam Newton

6. Eli Manning

7. Tony Romo

8. Philip Rivers

9. Ben Roethlisberger

10. Matt Ryan


1. Arian Foster

2. Ray Rice

3. LeSean McCoy

4. Chris Johnson

5. Darren McFadden

6. Maurice Jones-Drew

7. Matt Forte

8. Marshawn Lynch

9. DeMarco Murray

10. Steven Jackson


1. Calvin Johnson

2. Roddy White

3. Larry Fitzgerald

4. Greg Jennings

5. Wes Welker

6. Hakeem Nicks

7. Jordy Nelson

8. A.J. Green

9. Victor Cruz

10. Andre Johnson


1. Rob Gronkowski

2. Jimmy Graham

3. Antonio Gates

4. Jermichael Finley

5. Vernon Davis

6. Aaron Hernandez

7. Tony Gonzalez

8. Jason Witten

9. Fred Davis

10. Jermaine Gresham

Updated: September 30, 2012 6:19AM

Cam Newton is not a first-round draft pick.

There, I said it.

But before you avert your eyes from this page, understand my position. I’m not saying you shouldn’t draft Newton, who’s coming off a season no one has had before. I’m saying there’s a downside that makes him more worthy of a second- or third-round pick.

Some might think he’s a first-rounder because he’s the first player in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 500 yards in a season. He left a bigger impression with a quarterback-record 14 touchdowns. Newton has great size (6-5, 244 pounds), mobility and arm strength.

The question is whether he can produce similar numbers again. If you think he can, then step out on that limb. But research shows that’s a lot to ask of anyone, let alone a player entering his second season.

Let’s start with Newton’s passing. In his first four games last season, he threw for a whopping 1,386 yards, an average of 346.5. In his final 12 games, he threw for 2,665 yards, an average of 222.1. He had 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions overall. Clearly, he has a ways to go as a passer.

The bigger issue is Newton’s running. Replicating that production seems impossible. According to research by ESPN, since 1978, quarterbacks who had at least six touchdown runs in a season averaged 2.1 the next season.

Newton’s value comes from his rushing. In a basic-scoring system, 40 percent of his points last season came on the ground. He ran 126 times. That’s 50 more than Michael Vick, who missed three games. Granted, Newton is a beast, but there’s no way the Panthers want him running that much.

Besides, this is a team with three legitimate running backs in DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. Williams carried 155 times last season, Stewart 142 and Tolbert 121 with the Chargers.

Newton might become a better quarterback this season, but he won’t become a better fantasy player.

Comeback player watch

At running back, the general consensus is that after the top three — in order, Arian Foster, Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy — the board gets dicey.

I disagree. I foresee a comeback season for Chris Johnson, who two seasons ago rushed for 2,006 yards.

Johnson’s 2011 season started ominously. The Titans’ first-year coaching staff had little preparation time because of the lockout. Then Johnson held out until 10 days before the season opener. To make matters worse, the run-blocking was poor almost all season.

Now coach Mike Munchak and his staff have Johnson for a full preseason, Johnson is determined and in great shape and the offensive line was bolstered with the free-agent addition of guard Steve Hutchinson. Johnson is the best of the rest.

Big D for distress

The concern for Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is building after his top three receivers — Miles Austin (hamstring), Dez Bryant (knee) and tight end Jason Witten (spleen) — missed the preseason game Saturday.

Romo did fine throwing to Dwayne Harris (three catches, 118 yards, two touchdowns) and Kevin Ogletree (five catches, 75 yards). Of course, playing the Rams helps, preseason or otherwise.

But temper your expectations for Romo. Austin missed six games last season with hamstring problems, Bryant has off-the-field issues to boot and Witten’s status is iffy.

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