Newton, if healthy, should be able to hit the over on these totals.
He threw for more than 3,001 yards in each of his first eight seasons. Newton didn't reach that total in 2019 because he played only the first two games before missing the remaining 14 due to injury. The veteran quarterback averaged 22.75 touchdowns over his first eight seasons, and he also went over 17.5 in every year during that span. In 2018, Newton tallied 3,395 passing yards and 24 touchdown passes despite missing two games.
The concern for anyone taking the over on these 2020 totals is Newton's health. He's taken a lot of hits in his career, and his 2019 campaign was derailed by multiple injuries. But if Newton wins the starting quarterback job over Jarrett Stidham and he's able to stay healthy consistently, the 31-year-old should have enough weapons in the passing game and a good enough offensive line to reach 3,001-plus yards and 18 touchdowns.
The New England Patriots took a chance on Malcolm Butler, and he rewarded them with the game-winning interception in Super Bowl XLIX.
But what if there are more Malcolm Butler types who are going undiscovered?
That's part of Don Yee's inspiration for launching HUB Football. The powerful agent of former Patriots quarterbacks Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo is spearheading a "1-2 day strategically intensive, professional football development and teaching camp" to connect undrafted players and other NFL hopefuls with clubs that can use their services.
Butler went undrafted out of Division II West Alabama in 2014, but the Patriots invited him to their rookie minicamp, where he impressed enough to earn a three-year contract. The rest is history: Butler intercepted Russell Wilson on the goal line to seal the Patriots' dramatic Super Bowl XLIX win over the Seattle Seahawks and spent four seasons in New England before moving on to the Tennessee Titans in 2018.
As Yee pointed out, though, several circumstances had to line up for Butler to even join the Patriots in the first place.
"That event is the result of Malcolm being unemployed but staying in shape and believing in himself," Yee said. "It also was contingent on whomever his agent was at that point probably begging any teams to give him a look of any kind.
"It also was contingent on somebody in New England keeping an eye on him and saying, 'Hey, why don't we at least invest a little bit of money and take a look at this guy?' And then it was contingent on the efforts of the coaching staff and their belief."
"So, a lot of little things that ultimately became big things had to connect for that moment to happen in the Super Bowl, which literally changed a lot of narratives."
Yee's HUB Football initiative aims to make it much easier for teams like the Patriots to find players like Butler by putting players in the best possible position to land an NFL gig.
"We want to make it far more efficient and really, truly customize the product to exactly what an NFL general manager wants to see," Yee said. "How it is conducted, the timing, the types of people invited. So, it's not going to be all comers. We will vet the players that are interested. This is a product really only for those players that truly have NFL type of ability."
Butler is far from the only undrafted player to find success in the NFL. (Ever heard of Antonio Gates, James Harrison or Priest Holmes?) But there likely are similarly talented players who never got their chance due to unfortunate timing or any number of other circumstances.
Yee's product hopes to uncover more diamonds in the rough and make Butler's story more of a norm than an exception.
Despite all that, the 2021 NFL mock drafts are already starting to trickle in. And if you're looking for signs of normalcy, here's one: ESPN's Todd McShay has the New England Patriots taking an Alabama defender.
Here's McShay's explanation for the Patriots taking Crimson Tide inside linebacker Dylan Moses at No. 26 overall:
If there were a QB who made sense at this stage in the draft, the Patriots would probably look there. At this point, there isn't one, as my Nos. 4 and 5 quarterbacks -- Texas A&M's Kellen Mond and Iowa State's Brock Purdy -- are well down the board. But there is a linebacker (two, actually, with LSU's Jabril Cox also available) here who would go a long way toward providing the middle of the defense a QB of its own.
Moses missed last season with a knee injury, but when he's healthy, he is a complete player and game-changer. He brings athleticism, speed, physicality and leadership qualities. Dont'a Hightower, who already opted out of 2020, will be a free agent after the 2021 season, and the 'backer corps already lost Jamie Collins Sr. and Elandon Roberts to the open market.
Moses won a national championship with Alabama as a freshman in 2017 and was a second-team All-American in 2018 but missed the entire 2019 season due to a knee injury.
He announced his intention to return to Tuscaloosa in 2020 but will be draft-eligible in 2021, and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has a long history of drafting good friend Nick Saban's players, from Hightower (2012) to cornerback Cyrus Jones (2016) to running back Damien Harris (2019) to outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings earlier this year.
New England certainly has a need at the position, too: Collins, Roberts and Kyle Van Noy left in free agency this offseason, while Hightower will hit free agency in 2021.