Editor’s Note: This particular article is submitted by a new Member Corner author, Brian Bulmer. We welcome Brian to the Member Corner and look forward to seeing more of his work in the future!
Over the past five seasons, the NFL has become a pass heavy league. GM and Head Coaching positions essentially live and die by their team’s record. The quarterback position often dictates if a team can make it to the playoffs (unless of course you have Adrian Peterson and then don’t fumble the snap and try to convert on third down). Quarterbacks have been drafted early and often the past few years. In 2011, there were six quarterbacks selected in the first 36 draft picks. Cam Newton was the 2011 overall first pick and was a highly touted recruit who had led the Auburn Tigers to the BCS National Championship and won the Heisman Trophy. Colin Kaepernick led his team to a WAC title and also was one of three NFL bound quarterbacks to rush for 20 touchdowns and pass for 20 touchdowns in the same season. The other two quarterbacks who share that honor are Tim Tebow and Newton. Let’s take a closer look at each quarterback and decide which quarterback is more worthy of his current draft position.
Cam Newton, QB CAR
Cam Newton has been a stud quarterback since entering the NFL in 2011. He has posted top ten fantasy numbers the past two seasons and does so with having a mediocre backfield and one solid wide receiver. The addition of tight end Greg Olsen in 2011 gave Newton another pass catcher in the offense, but the Panthers have not made many strides to acquire or draft a second receiver to take some of the pressure off Steve Smith.
Despite the lack of a secondary wide receiver, Newton finished #13 among quarterbacks in total yards and was third in yards per attempt at 8.0 – he also threw for 19 passing touchdowns and 12 interceptions (down from 17 his rookie season). Newton was sacked 36 times in 2012 which ranked sixth among all quarterbacks behind a line that graded out at 74.7 in pass blocking efficiency – good for #29 in the NFL (according to PFF).
One of the major issues with Newton in the passing game is his ability to complete passes – this could be due to his lack of a second wide receiver target. Newton completed 60% of his passes in his rookie season, with 27 drops from his wide receivers. In 2012, Newton’s completion percentage dropped to 57.7% and his wide receivers accounted for 22 dropped passes. Although Newton’s 2012 quarterback rating of 86 was better compared to his rookie season (84), he was a more efficient passer in his Sophomore season due to fewer interceptions thrown.
Some observers thought Newton appeared to have a Sophomore slump early into the 2012 season. In the first eight weeks of the season, Newton had two weeks where he eclipsed the 30 fantasy points mark compared to four in the 2011 campaign. Through the first eight games in 2012, he averaged 21 fantasy points per contest, compared to 28.8 points per contest in 2011. The last eight games of the 2012 campaign, Newton averaged 27.4 points per contest compared to a 25 point average in his rookie season.
Comparatively speaking, Newton did have somewhat of a Sophomore slump. The lack of a consistent running game to go along with limited wide receiver targets has hurt his numbers. Adding a wide receiver in the draft and having a healthy Jonathan Stewart would help him tremendously. His lack of accuracy hurt his numbers in 2012, but not as much as his lack of use as a runner in goal line situations. Newton will continue to be a top ten quarterback due to the fact that he has been a top five rushing quarterback the last two seasons. Taking all things into consideration, it is hard to imagine that Newton’s numbers would fall off considerably. He should be a consistent top ten quarterback for the next decade.
Colin Kaepernick, QB SF
Kaepernick came into the NFL with a much different set of expectations. He was drafted to be Alex Smith’s primary backup. He was used primarily in wildcat packages in 2011 and played occasionally in 2012, typically on designed run plays. When Smith suffered a concussion in week ten versus the St. Louis Rams, Jim Harbaugh made what many consider a controversial decision. He elected to “stay with the hot hand” and ride Kaepernick the rest of the season. We all know the 49ers went on to the Super Bowl and lost, but we also found out during his time as a starter he has all the makings of a stud fantasy quarterback.
Kaepernick is a multi-talented player who can run the football and has a cannon arm. (Sidenote: Kaepernick was a standout pitcher in high school and was drafted by the Cubs in 2009 MLB draft). Kaepernick played the last eight games of the regular season averaging 22.3 points per game. It was the playoffs that excited fantasy owners of his potential in all fantasy formats. In the three playoff games, he averaged 33.4 points per game including a 51 point performance against the Green Bay Packers. Kaepernick was one of only a few fantasy players to ever eclipse the 50 point rank. Kaepernick did finish as the #26 ranked fantasy quarterback, while playing in only eight games.
Kaepernick finished the season with a 62.4% completion percentage – that ranked him #13 among all quarterbacks. His pass catchers also combined for 19 dropped passes. The only two quarterbacks ranked just ahead of him with 63% completion percentage were Drew Brees and Tom Brady – good company to be in. Do not forget that Brady and Brees played an entire season and we have only watched Kaepernick quarterback for eight regular season games and the playoffs.
Kaepernick has all the potential in the world to be a fantasy stud and dynasty pillar. Looking at his potential, we can extrapolate his average for the last eight weeks of the season (excluding playoffs) and see he would have been on pace to score 356 fantasy points – that number would have placed Kaepernick as the eighth ranked quarterback, just 24 fantasy points behind Cam Newton.
Looking at the numbers and the potential, we know Kaepernick has the ability to score big points. Using the last eight games of the 2012 campaign (excluding playoffs), he scored over 30 fantasy points only once. Knowing that once he found his comfort level in the offense and was able to post a 50 point fantasy day in the playoffs gives fantasy owners the potential ceiling on this young player. Kaepernick has all the tools including a solid running game, solid targets in Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin at wide receiver, as well as Vernon Davis playing tight end. An entire off-season to prepare with former quarterback Jim Harbaugh and the value in taking Kaepernick may exceed the value of Cam Newton.
Cam Newton’s current dynasty ADP is at 24. Kaepernick’s current ADP is listed at 42. The potential of Kaepernick is very high due to an entire off-season to prepare with Jim Harbaugh and work on chemistry with his wide receivers and tight end. Kaepernick obviously has a great deal of talent and drafting him in the third round is great value, but fantasy owners would be drafting mostly on potential. Cam Newton in the late second round is based on two full seasons of NFL experience. At this point the Panthers have not done enough to surround Cam Newton with other offensive playmakers to maximize his fantasy potential. Newton has been able to put up solid numbers despite lackluster line play and disappointing play by the talent around him (exception is Steve Smith of course). I would take Cam Newton because I like to play it safe and I know he will continue to put up solid fantasy numbers. However, if I was a gambling man and wanted to make a pick that could potentially put up consistent top five quarterback numbers due to his talent, coach, and team, my money would be on Kaepernick.
Follow Brian on Twitter: @Brian_Bulmer.