Eight months after ending his collegiate career on the very same field, Carolina Panthers rookie QB Cam Newton put together a record-setting debut performance against the Arizona Cardinals on the very same field. Although the Panthers lost, Cam Newton completed 24 of 37 passes for 422 yards with two touchdowns, an interception, 18 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. That's what you call filling up the stat sheet.
His performance featured a broad mix of good and bad. Even his two touchdown passes told us a lot. His first TD to Steve Smith was 77 yards but Smith was easily behind the secondary and had to wait on an underthrown Newton pass. The second TD pass to Smith was a fantastic throw that Smith caught in stride in the end zone. Good defenses likely don't let Smith get that open on the first play or get a pick, while no defense could defend the second touchdown.
The question for fantasy football owners is what to make of this eye-opening performance. We won't see these kinds of numbers from him every week but for fantasy football it is a matter of getting some manner of consistency mixed in with the great performances. In 2011, the odds are very high that he will put together some stinker performances that rival the greatness of his debut. The question is how many of each we'll see and really it's just about impossible to tell. History would indicate he'll struggle immensely at times, but the fun thing about football is that it is not always predictable.
There are going to be people that will use up their waiver wire priority this week to get Cam Newton. They're enamored by his huge passing totals and are ready to give up the farm for him. For single season leagues, do not be one of those people. Even if you need a quarterback, there are likely going to be more consistent options on the waiver wire. If you don't mind the ups and downs, be my guest. But if you want to play it safe, Newton is not the guy for you.
If you find yourself in any sort of keeper/dynasty league, odds are high that Newton was drafted already. If not, I'd recommend using up waiver priority if you've got space to sit on him for a year. Newton has to show more than what he did against a very suspect Arizona Cardinals defense, but in long-term leagues, he's worth the investment.