Debate is the crux of fantasy football. Everyone has an opinion. It’s one of several reasons why this addictive little game so enjoyable. In this edition of the Docs, Brad Evans and Dalton Del Don measure the vitals of versatile mid-draft quarterbacks Marcus Mariota (97.5 ADP, QB8) and Cam Newton (102.9 ADP, QB11). Read. Respond. And declare a winner.
Evans touts the Titan : Hawaiian Punch is more than just the sugary drink you stained white t-shirts with as a kid. It’s also what Mariota is about to levy on the league. Last season’s breakthrough was only a warmup. Recall in that campaign he was the third-most valuable fantasy passer Weeks 5-12. Over that span he completed 67.4 percent of his attempts, averaged 259.1 passing yards per game, 29.8 rushing yards per game and tallied a 25:3 TD:INT (two rushing) split. Overall, his red-zone and deep-ball tosses were unbelievably pinpoint.
Mining data, Mariota’s 2016 was stunningly efficient. The run-heavy Titans featured three-wide receiver sets just 42 percent of the time, well below the 60 percent league average, yet he still blossomed. Yes, he floundered often after halftime (87.5 QB rating) and struggled in losses (80.1 QB rating, 6.7 YPA), but occasional bumps are typical with any talented quarterback. With Corey Davis and Eric Decker now in the mix and Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker returning, I predict offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie implements more spread formations to keep defenses off-guard and tap into Mariota’s enhanced skill set.
Well-protected behind a rigid offensive line and supported by a pair of stud running backs, the passer has all the ingredients to realize his full potential. Unlike Newton who was woefully inaccurate last year, coming off shoulder surgery and is sure to run less this fall, Mariota is a top-five passer destined to finish in range of 4,000 passing yards, 300 rushing yards and 31-33 total touchdowns (2-3 rushing). It’s why he’s my QB4. Continue robbing people blind in the Round 8-10 range.
Del Don pushes for the Panther: I actually really like Mariota this season and have him ranked as a top-10 fantasy quarterback, but I’m here to go to bat for Newton, whom I apparently have aggressively ranked (according to the industry) as my QB4. He’s one season removed from winning the MVP award and was widely regarded as the top-quarterback in fantasy entering last year. Let’s not overreact to one down campaign in 2016 when he apparently played the final half of the season with a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder, as Newton has a long track record of success and is still just 28 years old.
Moreover, Kelvin Benjamin is one more season removed from knee surgery (and ostensibly enters in better shape), and Devin Funchess should show further growth during his third year in the league. The Panthers also added playmakers Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel through the draft. There’s been talk of trying to better protect Newton with shorter passes (an area in which he’s struggled), but he recently proclaimed he’s not going to stop running (he’s been dominant at the goal line throughout his career). In general, I still prefer waiting on the position, but I fully expect Newton to bounce back and be a top-five fantasy QB in 2017.