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2016 Player vs. Player - Aaron Rodgers vs. Cam Newton

It's never too early to start preparing for your fantasy football drafts, and Rotoballer is here to help! In this series, two RotoBaller experts will discuss the merits of two players with similar value and average draft position (ADP). Remember that situations will change for all players over the course of the summer and it may impact where they are selected in drafts.

Our next article comes from featured writers Pierre Camus (@pfunk00) and Kane Green (@NovaKaneSports). Kane defends perennial Pro Bowl QB Aaron Rodgers in his attempt to rebound from what would qualify as a sub-par season only for him, while Pierre is on the side of reigning MVP Cam Newton.

Editor's Note: RotoBaller offers the best Premium MLB Subscription - only $1.99 per week. All the tools you need to help win your seasonal and daily leagues: Hitter & Pitcher Streamers, Matchup Ratings for every player, Under-the-Radar Surgers for AVG, HR, Ks, plus daily DFS Cheat Sheets, Lineup Picks, Expert Lineups, Stacks and Avoids. 

 

Aaron Rodgers vs. Cam Newton

Admittedly, it would be hard to go wrong with either Cam Newton or Aaron Rodgers in your QB slot. However, as fantasy writers, it is our duty to perform exhaustive analysis of their pros and cons, so that you, the reader, can make the best decision possible in this year’s draft. Let’s get started!

 

TD/INT ratio

Kane: There is no doubt that Cam has the potential to put up huge numbers, but one of the primary categories I look at when drafting a quarterback is the ability to avoid turnovers. Taking that into consideration, there is no better pick than Aaron Rodgers. In the past two seasons, Rodgers has 13 combined interceptions. To put that in perspective, 11 starting quarterbacks had that many interceptions, or more, in 2015 alone. Add the fact that he has thrown 38 or more TD in three of the last five seasons (remember, he only played nine games in 2013) and that makes for a surefire fantasy bet.

Pierre: Avoiding turnovers is a big asset, especially in leagues that penalize players with negative points. That alone isn't a deciding factor when drafting a top-flight quarterback as early as the third round. If so, Alex Smith would be a #1 pick in fantasy as well. TD/INT ratio is more telling statistic and, despite a few more turnovers, Newton should be prioritized. He produced more combined touchdowns last year than any other QB (hence the MVP award), while throwing just ten interceptions. He has lowered his interceptions in three of the past four seasons down to 10 in 2016. Look more closely and you'll notice he only threw one pick in the second half of the season, showcasing his progress. Newton may not touch double-digit INT this season, narrowing the gap between him and Rodgers in this category.

 

Impact of Primary Target Returning

Kane: Quarterbacks are only as good as their primary weapons, and Rodgers has some great receiving reads to go through. In 2015, Rodgers had one of the worst seasons of his career. Arguably the biggest reason for this was the absence of his favorite target, Jordy Nelson. This left Randall Cobb to face the bulk of the coverage, and Rodgers had to force it to his less established receivers instead. Between 2013 and 2014 seasons, Nelson had 2,833 receiving yards, and 21 TDs. Needless to say, it will only help Rodgers’ 2016 outlook.

Pierre: Newton also returns his best receiver, third-year 1st rounder Kelvin Benjamin. Unlike the 31 year-old Nelson, Benjamin is just 25 and entering the all-important third year as an NFL receiver. In his rookie season, before Newton's breakout, Benjamin already put up 1,008 YD and nine TD. Just think what he is capable of producing this season. The 6'5", 250 lb behemoth will make an enormous red zone threat and ease the pressure off of Cam from having to spread the ball around to lesser receivers.

 

Receiving Depth

Kane: In addition to Rodgers’ two prime time receivers, he also has extreme depth to fall back on if one of his receivers gets hurt. Not only will Cobb and Nelson be pulling down their share of receptions, but Davante Adams will be looking to regain the trust that he lost in 2015, and will no longer be under the pressure of supporting the offense. Don’t forget the promising youngsters Ty Montgomery and Jared Abbrederis, and Jared Cook’s backup at the tight end position, Richard Rodgers. All of these guys have the talent to start on a lot of NFL teams, and are in a position where they can develop as playmakers. In comparison, Cam Newton has… Corey Brown and Stephen Hill?

Pierre: Sure, the Packers have more players qualified to fight for the glory of the third or fourth receiver job, the Panthers probably have a more talented starting group. Benjamin aside, Devin Funchess is a second-rounder primed to break out in his sophomore season in a way that Davante Adams couldn't do last year. Ted Ginn is capable of taking it to the house every time he touches the ball (when he doesn't drop it, that is). Ed Dickson is a quality backup tight end and frankly, Greg Olsen is worth more than two Jared Cooks anyway.

 

Coaching Philosophies

Kane: With the rule changes regarding the point after touchdown, a lot of teams are looking more closely at going for two instead of kicking the extra point. Coach Mike McCarthy was recently quoted as saying that he would have “zero issue” with the Packers ramping up their two-point attempts in 2016. Even with Eddie Lacy leaning out in the offseason, the Packers would still need to mix it up if they want to keep defenses off balance. It isn’t like they aren’t already good at it. In 2015, Green Bay ranked second in successful two point conversions, completing four out of their eight tries. Aaron Rodgers would likely see a few QB sneaks, and some short dump passes, resulting in extra two extra fantasy points on top of Rodgers’ consistently impressive weekly lines.

Pierre: While Rodgers may get the chance to chip in an extra two points more frequently, Newton will be cashing in six with his legs. I don't have to tell you (but I will anyway) that Newton is the best running QB in the league and maybe the best dual-threat ever. He ran for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns just last season. He has put up 43 rushing TD in his first five seasons - numbers that most running backs can be jealous of. Newton’s rushing value alone makes him top-10 QB and as valuable as most starting running backs. Most importantly, Coach Ron Rivera was quoted as saying Newton is “just scratching the surface of how good he can be” and believes he is a triple-threat. Words from a coach that don't sound like he will stop him from running with the ball any time soon.

 

Health

Kane: Cam’s legs are a crucial part of his game. All-in-all, he is a much bigger threat on the ground than Rodgers. I concede that. However, with the Panthers receiving core (with the obvious exception of Greg Olsen) still unproven, and an aging and injury-prone Jonathan Stewart lining up in the backfield, Cam may be forced to use his legs more often to make up yardage on third downs. This will not bode well for him this season. Apart from historical data reflecting sharp regression in mobile quarterbacks, defenses will be able to plan for his scampers, and shut them down early. Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, will not have to use his legs, but, instead, will be able to use them as an accent to all of his other threats. This will keep him healthier, and able to make more plays through the air as the season progresses. No quarterback has a higher floor than Rodgers and he makes for a sure bet among early QB picks. Do you really want to risk injury or regression on a stud QB?

Pierre: True, Newton won't be able to scramble forever, but at age 27 it is a non-issue entering the 2016 season. Despite his hard-playing style, Newton has been remarkably healthy, playing in 78 of a possible 80 games in his career so far. Plus, the Panthers are one of just three teams that are returning the same offensive line that played together for the majority of last season. They will continue to keep defenders off his back and open running lanes for him to dart through. His Super Bowl experience, increased maturity, and motivation after losing the big game will only make him hungrier if anything. There is always risk involved with a QB like Newton, but he has arguably the highest ceiling than any player in the entire league. You can play it safe, but fantasy championships aren't won by making a bunch of safe picks, are they?

 

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