Wed Nov 6 5:08pm ET
By STEVE REED
AP Sports Writer
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton stands on the sidelines during the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
In this April 29, 2011, file photo, Carolina Panthers first-round draft pick Cam Newton answers a question after being introduced during an NFL football news conference at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. Cam Newton is a former league MVP and the long-time face of the Panthers franchise. But it's hard not to wonder if his future in Carolina is coming to an end following his recent spate of injuries. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone, File)
In this Sept. 13, 2019, file photo, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) walks off the field following the Panthers 20-14 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C. Cam Newton is a former league MVP and the long-time face of the Panthers franchise. But it's hard not to wonder if his future in Carolina is coming to an end following his recent spate of injuries. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn, File)
In this Dec. 23, 2018, file photo, Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton watches the action from the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, in Charlotte, N.C. Cam Newton is a former league MVP and the long-time face of the Panthers franchise. But it's hard not to wonder if his future in Carolina is coming to an end following his recent spate of injuries. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn, File)
In this Aug. 9, 2017, file photo, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton laughs after the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Houston Texans, in Charlotte, N.C. Cam Newton is a former league MVP and the long-time face of the Panthers franchise. But it's hard not to wonder if his future in Carolina is coming to an end following his recent spate of injuries. (AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek, File)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Cam Newton's injury status has raised questions about whether he's played his final game for the Carolina Panthers.
The 2015 league MVP has struggled with shoulder and foot issues the last two seasons and will finish the season on injured reserve. He is 0-8 in his last eight starts and the Panthers face a difficult decision in February.
The organization must decide whether to pay Newton $21.1 million next season or cut ties with the longtime face of the franchise and save $19 million under the 2020 salary cap. If they decide to let Newton go, the quarterback would only cost the Panthers $2 million next season in dead cap space.
Trading Newton would be another option, although the Panthers would have to find a team willing to take on his exiting contract or agree to give the QB an extension.
Panthers general manager Marty Hurney and coach Ron Rivera aren't ready to discuss that option, not with the Panthers (5-3) very much in the playoff hunt.
Newton, who hasn't done an interview about his health since aggravating his foot injury in a Week 2 loss to Tampa Bay, made a brief cameo in the locker room on Wednesday.
When asked if he had time to talk, he responded playfully, ''I haven't talked to y'all in a month of Sundays. This a month of Sundays. I got nothing for y'all.''
When pressed to talk, Newton looked back at reporters with a smile on his face and said, ''Y'all got all of the answers anyway. Y'all going to figure it out.''
Newton's representatives haven't returned phone calls and text messages from The Associated Press seeking comment on his future.
Hurney also declined interview requests, instead referring to the statement he released Tuesday. That statement said ''at this time, we have decided that the best decision to reach the goal of bringing the foot back to 100% is to place Cam on injured reserve.''
Rivera said it was a ''collective decision'' between all parties to put Newton on injured reserve but refused to discuss the QB's situation after making an opening statement.
''We feel right now the best thing was to put him on injured reserve and move forward,'' Rivera said. ''I really do appreciate everything Cam does and the fact he is still here and wants to be around and be part of it. He's done a great job doing it. With that, I would like to start talking about playing the Packers'' on Sunday.''
The coach was then asked whether he hopes Newton could return for the postseason after serving eight weeks on injured reserve. Rivera offered a terse response.
''That question will not be addressed until it is time to address it,'' Rivera said. ''So, at the end of the day, he's on IR. Kyle Allen is our quarterback.''
Rivera did say he expects that the decision will give Allen more clarity as far as his status as the team's unquestioned starting QB.
Allen is 5-1 as the team's starting quarterback in place of Newton, but there was some speculation he might lose his job after a 51-13 loss to the 49ers two weeks ago.
''I do think as a player it will help him,'' Rivera said. ''It's one of those things where you don't have to worry, `Hey, if I don't play well back-to-back something is going to happen immediately.'''
But Allen said his approach won't change now that Newton is on injured reserve.
''To be honest, I always expected to be in this position,'' said Allen, who went undrafted in 2018. ''... I expected that some way I was going to find a way to get here.''
Rivera wouldn't rule out the Panthers adding a third quarterback to the roster at some point.
Allen and rookie Will Grier are the only QBs currently on the roster.
For Allen, the rest of the season is an opportunity to bolster his resume and perhaps establish himself as Carolina's next franchise quarterback.
''I knew when I got my opportunity to play in this league I would have to take advantage of it,'' Allen said. ''Now I just have a few more opportunities.''
June 5th: Best Ball Strategy
Pro Football Focus rates Houston Texans left tackle Laremy Tunsil as the third-highest tackle in pass blocking among those with a minimum of 300 snaps, having only allowed 29 pressures in 656 pass-protection snaps, including the playoffs. His individual impact in both pass and run snaps combined for the highest win-contribution metric among left tackles by a slim margin. Houston's offensive-line production went from right near the bottom in 2018 to 19th overall last season with the help of Tunsil on the left side. The 25-year-old became the highest-paid left tackle in the league this offseason as a result. The franchise left tackle is tasked with protecting the franchise QB in Deshaun Watson long term.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle led the league in receiving yards per route run in 2019 with 3.3, among those that ran a minimum of 100 routes, per Next Gen Stats. He recorded 75.2 receiving yards per game over 14 games, which was the second-highest rate among qualified tight ends, and the fourth-best catch percentage (79.4). But while Kittle is one of the best receiving tight ends in the game, he's also one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL. The 26-year-old has 2,430 yards and 10 touchdowns in the last two seasons, and he played injured for most of the 2019 campaign. With better health an improved receiving corps around him in 2020, it's scary to think that Kittle could do even more damage. Kittle is in consideration as the top fantasy tight end alongside Travis Kelce.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was NFL Network's Cynthia Frelund's highest-rated on- and off-ball receiver in 2019. He ranked third in receiving first downs with 68 (behind just Michael Thomas and Julio Jones). Half of those first downs came on second down (30), and 19 of them were earned on second-and-seven-plus yards, which was the most in the NFL. Hopkins moved from Houston to Arizona this offseason and should be targeted like a true No. 1 wideout by Kyler Murray in the team's spread offense. Competing for targets with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk might drop Hopkins' elite ceiling just a tad, but he's still a strong WR1 candidate worth considering at the end of Round 1/beginning of Round 2.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas set an NFL record with 149 catches in 2019, 91 of which netted the team a first down (most in the NFL), including nine touchdowns. Next Gen Stats shows that 97 of his catches came on short passes, which was 35 more than any other receiver. Thomas also caught 68.3 percent of his targets of 10-plus air yards, which was the best rate in the NFL among those with a minimum of 25 such targets. When Thomas wasn't targeted, he ranked third last year in his ability to attract an opponent's best and/or multiple defensive backs. The 27-year-old typically doesn't have massive weekly performances, but he sees a ton of looks from Drew Brees and is the safest receiver option you can find in fantasy. Thomas is worth considering as a top-five fantasy pick as the top wideout off the board in the first round.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was ranked ahead of Saquon Barkley, Miles Sanders, and Adrian Peterson in a recent Sports Illustrated poll, a list compiled with the assistance of NFL scouts, ranking the best backs in the NFC East. The former Buckeye had one of his best seasons to date in 2019 by finishing with 1,357 yards and 12 touchdowns off of 301 touches. He also added 54 catches and two additional scores while also ranking sixth in YAC. With the 24-year-old also rumored to be more involved in the team's passing attack under new head coach Mike McCarthy, his stock appears higher than ever. While he is slotted behind Barkley in most fantasy rankings, a case can be easily made for Elliott to get picked up as the No. 2 overall draft choice behind Christian McCaffrey in fantasy drafts heading into the 2020 campaign.
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey led the NFL in scrimmage yards with 2,392 last year, with the next closest player (Ezekiel Elliott) at 1,777 yards. McCaffrey played 93.4 percent of Carolina's offensive snaps, which was the highest in the league among running backs. His 1,262 scrimmage yards on first down were the most for any player by almost 200 yards -- Derrick Henry came in second at 1,098 -- and he also added nine total first-down touchdowns. McCaffrey averaged 5.0 yards per rush inside the tackles, which was second in the NFL among those with a minimum of 75 inside runs. New head coach Matt Rhule hinted that McCaffrey might not be used as much this year, but even if that's true, the running back is still head and shoulders above the competition because of his capabilities as both a runner and receiver. He should be the first overall pick in all fantasy leagues.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry earned more rushing first downs on first down (31) than any other running back in the league last season. Henry also had nine rushing touchdowns on first down (second-most in the NFL) and another on a pass. His yards per rush after contact of 4.2 was the best in the league among those with a minimum of 100 rushes, including the playoffs, according to Pro Football Focus. In a run-first offense, Henry was the key cog in Tennessee's machine, helping them to an AFC Championship appearance. The 26-year-old led the league in rushing attempts (303), rushing yards (1,540), rushing TDs (16) and rushing yards per game (102.7). While Henry is an obvious RB1, his lack of involvement in the passing game can make him volatile on a weekly basis.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson won the 2019 NFL MVP with a blend of exceptional skills, the right play-calling and a supporting cast that helped make the most of his attributes. The second-year quarterback threw for 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions on play-action passes last season, which was the best TD-to-interception ratio in the league, per Next Gen Stats. Jackson also had 24 touchdown passes and only two picks against the blitz, which was 10 more TD tosses against the blitz than any other QB in the league. He's only 23 years old and already set the single-season rushing record for quarterbacks as well. While it might be tough for Jackson to top his 2019 numbers, his elite dual-threat abilities put him in contention with Patrick Mahomes as fantasy's top QB.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said he's done field work with running back Todd Gurley II "a handful of times" and came away "really impressed" with his new running back. The two have spent time together in recent weeks in Southern California. The Falcons are hoping Gurley, the 2017 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, can help boost a running game that ranked 30th in the league last year with 85.1 rushing yards per game. "I think he's going to be an awesome fit for us," Ryan said of Gurley. "And I'm glad we have him." Ryan's workouts have also included receivers Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, tight ends Hayden Hurst and Jaeden Graham and fullback Keith Smith. Knee issues have slowed Gurley in recent seasons, but he still remains an effective back when on the field and could bounce back to RB1 status in his new home in Atlanta.
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones held up quite well under pressure behind a porous offensive line in his rookie season. His numbers under pressure were comparable to Falcons QB Matt Ryan, which is incredibly impressive. Jones had an 8:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio and nearly 1,000 passing yards while under pressure in 2019. The 23-year-old from Duke also posted two of the top-10 single performances by a quarterback last year, which demonstrates the kind of upside he possesses heading into his first full season as the Giants starter under center. With an excellent offensive cast on his side, Jones has a bright NFL future, in 2020 and beyond. Draft him as a high-end QB2 with QB1 upside.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen was the only player on NFL.com's Nick Shook's list of top-10 QBs under pressure to have a negative completion percentage above expectation in 2019, but his passer rating under pressure (80) and TD-to-interception ratio of 5:2 land him at No. 9. He took three and a half seconds on average to get rid of the football when under pressure, something he faced 125 times while completing 87 passes. Allen's legs give him considerable fantasy upside at his position, but if he can improve his decision-making and accuracy down the field, he has realistic top-five upside in 2020. Gaining wide receiver Stefon Diggs as his new No. 1 target certainly won't hurt.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott completed exactly the amount of pressured passes as was expected in 2019, but he also attempted the third-most pressured passes (144) of anyone on NFL.com's Nick Shook's list of top-10 QBs under pressure. He's also one of just two passers on the list to break 1,000 passing yards under pressure. Prescott's 7:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio while under pressure looks pretty good. The young passer is tied with Philip Rivers for the fourth-most TD passes completed under pressure since 2016, with 19. He also has the highest single-season completion percentage above expectation under pressure in a single season since 2016. With or without a long-term contract extension in Dallas this summer, Prescott will likely be the third QB off the board in fantasy drafts behind Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes.
Nobody in the NFL faced more pressures last season than Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan with 216. And despite all that pressure, he still managed to post a passer rating under pressure that was more than 12 points higher than the league average of 66.2. Ryan's passer rating under pressure of 87.9 is the highest among QBs in every season combined since 2016. Only Tom Brady has thrown more touchdown passes while under pressure (30) than Ryan (27) since 2016. His 104.9 passer rating from 2016 sits third in the top-five passer ratings under pressure since 2016. Ryan also tied for the third-most TD passes thrown under pressure in a single season with nine in 2018. If Atlanta's offensive line can actually give him more time to throw, the consistent 35-year-old should have top-five QB1 upside in 2020.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford played in just eight games last season because of injury, but he remained consistent under pressure when he was on the field. His passer rating of 84.2 while under pressure and his plus-2.2 percent completion rate above expectation are impressive considering that he threw more than 30 percent of his under-pressure throws into tight windows. Stafford's combined passer rating under pressure of 83.8 is the third-best mark of any qualified quarterback since 2016, trailing just Matt Ryan and Alex Smith. The 32-year-old was on pace for a great finish in 2019 if he hadn't gotten hurt, and many expect him to pick up right where he left off in 2020. Stafford is a borderline QB1 and makes for a great fantasy backup.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has mostly been successful in the NFL when pressured. While he doesn't face as much pressure as he once did, Cousins remains a top-five QB when under duress. His passer rating (91.5) was fifth-best in 2019, his completion percentage under pressure (58.1) was fourth-best and his completion percentage above expectation (plus-3.8) was in the top five. The 31-year-old is often overshadowed by some of the league's stars at the position, but he also lost his No. 1 receiver in Stefon Diggs and his offensive coordinator in Kevin Stefanski. He could take a step back in 2020 in an offense that will lean heavily on the running game. Target Cousins as a midrange QB2 with a low ceiling.
Not only did Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson set a new single-season rushing record for QBs in 2019, but he also ranked No. 4 on NFL.com's Nick Shook's list of best quarterbacks under pressure. He had a touchdown-to-interception ratio under pressure of 8:3, which means almost a quarter (22 percent) of his 36 touchdown passes came while under pressure. Jackson had less than 470 passing yards under pressure while also completing 49.2 percent of his 65 pressured attempts. His dual-threat abilities as a passer and runner are what made Baltimore's offense so explosive in 2019, and will for years to come. Jackson is an explosive runner and thrives under pressure as a passer. What else do you want as the No. 1 fantasy QB?
Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr posted the third-best passer rating (103.7) while under pressure in 2019, and his completion percentage of 66.7 under pressure was the best of any qualifying signal-caller in the league last year. Carr's completion percentage above expectation of plus-5.9 had to do with the fact that he targeted open receivers at a rate of 56.9 percent, which was tops in the NFL. There are a lot of knocks on Carr as a passer and his leash might be short in 2020 with Marcus Mariota behind him, but he did find open receivers in the face of pressure last year with regularity. Not many fantasy owners will be targeting him, even as a QB2, but Carr could surprise and hold off Mariota with some new weapons that the Raiders gave him in the draft, mainly wide receiver Henry Ruggs III.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees' 105.9 passer rating under pressure in 2019 is the second-best mark in a single season since 2016, trailing only Ryan Tannehill from last season. The future Hall of Famer found success under pressure by getting rid of the ball quickly (3.01 second on average per pressured throw) to nearby targets, averaging 9.6 air yards per pressured attempt. Brees led all quarterbacks on NFL.com's Nick Shook's list with a 41.7 percent success rate on pressured pass attempts. While the 41-year-old is still good despite his age and now has Emmanuel Sanders to lean on, he isn't taking as many deep shots as he once did. Brees' ceiling just isn't as high as it once was, making him more of a low-end QB1 in what will likely be his final season.
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones flashed big potential in his rookie season but was plagued by one key issue: He led the NFL with 18 fumbles. Limiting turnovers will be key if Jones is to take the next step in his development, and he has been working since the season ended with David Cutcliffe, his coach at Duke. If Jones can hold onto the ball, he has big upside for fantasy owners. He averaged 233 yards per game last season and threw 24 touchdowns in 13 games (12 starts). He is currently the 13th QB off the board but has the upside to finish as a top-10 fantasy passer with the weapons he has in New York.
Although Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill didn't play a full season in 2019, NFL.com's Nick Shook has him ranked No. 1 on the list of the top-10 QBs under pressure last season. The former first-round pick had the only passer rating above 110 in the league while being pressured in the pocket among those with a minimum of 250 total pass attempts. Tannehill also did so while targeting receivers in tight windows on 23.9 percent of such attempts. He became the only qualified passer to average 10-plus yards per attempt under pressure in a season since 2016. It all helped Tannehill become the NFL Comeback Player of the Year while leading his team to the AFC Championship. Tannehill has been efficient as a passer, but the problem is that the Titans don't throw the rock enough to make him anything more than a passable fantasy backup.