Could Cam Newton be a bust in 2012?

Cam Newton is coming off the best rookie season ever for a quarterback. He finished with 4,051 passing yards, 706 rushing yards, 35 total touchdowns – 14 of which came on the ground – and an impressive 369.34 fantasy points. That was good for third most in the league.

Did I mention, he did this all as a rookie?

Yes, Newton broke the mold when it comes to immediate statistical success at his position. Based on his skill set and 2011 success, I think Newton deserves to be taken in the first round of most fantasy drafts next season. Let me say that again, one more time – I think Newton deserves to be taken in the first round of most fantasy drafts next season.

But I also like to play devil’s advocate when it comes to the value of some players. I want to make you, the fantasy enthusiast, think a little. I did it last season with Michael Vick, who some considered to be worth the first overall selection in 2011 based on his ridiculous numbers the previous season. I disagreed, much to the dismay of more than a few people. Well, Vick finished with far less success in the stat sheets – especially in the category of rushing touchdowns.

After hitting pay dirt nine times as a runner in 2010, Vick scored one rushing touchdown and finished a far less impressive 11th in fantasy points at quarterback last year.

So again, playing devil’s advocate, I went back and looked at some the quarterbacks who have rushed for the most touchdowns in a single season. How did those signal-callers fare the following year, I wondered? The results I found were, well, I’ll let you look for yourselves:

Steve Grogan, Patriots (1976): Before Newton, Grogan was the NFL leader in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a season with 12. He found the end zone once the following year and never scored more than five rushing touchdowns in a season the rest of his career.

Kordell Stewart, Steelers (1997): Yes, Stewart was an actual fantasy stud for a few years in Pittsburgh. He rushed for a career-best 11 touchdowns in 1997, but scored just twice on the ground in 1998. Stewart never scored more than seven rushing touchdowns in a season again.

Tobin Rote, Packers (1956): There aren’t a lot of football fans who have heard of Rote, but he found the end zone 11 times as a runner in 1956. In the following season, he scored once on the ground. Rote never rushed for more than three touchdowns in a season afterward.

Johnny Lujack, Bears (1950): Like Rote, you might never have heard of Lujack. But I’m here to educate, and this Notre Dame product found the end zone 11 times as a runner in 1950. The next season, which would be the last of his career, Rote scored seven times on the ground.

Daunte Culpepper, Vikings (2002): I know you have heard of this guy. Culpepper rushed for a career-best 10 scores in 2002, only to see that total fall to four the following season. That would be the most rushing scores Culpepper would produce in a season the rest of his career.

Billy Kilmer, Redskins (1961): Kilmer, like Newton, was a rookie when he rushed for double-digit scores (10). He would go on to find the end zone just five times the following year, and that was the best he could do in that category during the remainder of his NFL tenure.

Aside from these quarterbacks, others like Randall Cunningham, Steve Young and Steve McNair never rushed for double-digit touchdowns in their careers. What’s more, those players all saw a decline in rushing scores the season after establishing a career high in that category.

Pretty interesting stuff.

These stats aren’t going to make me pass on Newton if he falls in my lap late in the first round, but I’m not expecting another 14 touchdowns on the ground based on what history shows. Instead, I’ll project around eight and consider anything more to be an added bonus.

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