Carolina’s Dilemma: Picking First In A Weak Draft
No player burst onto the college football scene this year quite like Auburn Quarterback Cameron Newton. His name appeared in the media for all the right and wrong reasons during the season. In leading his Tigers to their first National Championship victory since 1957, Newton was named a First Team All-American and won the Heisman trophy, all despite being a subject of a serious NCAA investigation. Days after the title game, he chose to give up his eligibility and enter the 2011 NFL Draft.
The demand for a franchise Quarterback has never been greater in the NFL. Still, with the size of the investment teams must make these days when picking high in the draft, it’s important that they don’t get it wrong. The interview process may be as important for Cameron Newton as his actual workouts. Quarterback coaches and Offensive Coordinators may come to the conclusion that his flaws are all very coachable. On the other hand, some franchises will not have the patience to take eight to sixteen games to let him sit and learn.
He surely can’t be expected to be a serious running threat in the NFL; however, he has the feet to escape the pocket and pick up first downs a la Aaron Rodgers or Josh Freeman. He’ll be groomed as a pocket passer and it will take some patience from the team that drafts him. Despite a sizeable learning curve, Newton possesses all the tools to be a top-notch pro Quarterback in the mold of a young Donovan McNabb or Ben Roethlisberger.
Without a clear-cut top Quarterback in this class, Cameron Newton will be battling to be the top player selected at his position. He’s raw, inexperienced, and still a bit of a mystery character-wise; however, he is among the draft’s most naturally gifted players and perhaps one of the greatest physical specimens to ever play the position. Newton’s tremendous upside will entice Quarterback-needy teams early come April.
+ Excellent size at roughly 6’5 240; sees the field well
+ Very strong arm
+ Displays exceptional escapability
+ Throws with terrific velocity and touch
+ Tremendous athlete who is a threat to take off at any time
+ Throws well on the move
+ Great leader on the field
+ Flashes elite accuracy though inconsistency in mechanics is apparent
+ Throws a very pretty deep ball
+ Shows vision and elusiveness in the open field
+ Tough and powerful; won’t go down without a fight
+ Incredibly productive; Heisman Trophy winner
+ Very competitive and passionate
+ No injury history
+ Success came in the face of great adversity during the season
– Lacks refined footwork; too often throws flat-footed or off his back foot
– Comes from a spread-option scheme that kept reads very simple
– Only one year of starting experience
– Questionable Intelligence; could take some time to digest an NFL playbook
– Accuracy and focus can be inconsistent
– Occasionally holds the ball too long
– Will have to answer serious questions about maturity and his past
– Throwing mechanics can be improved
– Raw pocket awareness; was encouraged to use his feet a lot at Auburn
– Projects as a guy that may take time to develop as a pocket passer
– Running ability will be largely negated at the next level
Why the Panthers will select Cameron Newton First Overall
Sometimes great teams can find a way to get by with average play at the Quarterback position, but most acknowledge that a strong QB is the foundation of any perennial-playoff team. The Panthers greatest struggles a year ago stemmed from the position and Ron Rivera realizes he may not want to put all his team’s marbles in Jimmy Clausen’s basket. The team already had committed itself to a new Quarterback in Andrew Luck before he decided to go back to school, so it’s clear they see it possible to upgrade the position. Cameron Newton is this draft’s top signal-caller. He possesses elite physical tools, an impeccable college track record, and may be the charismatic face of the franchise needed to stir up excitement in Carolina. Risk factor is huge when considering Newton’s checkered past and lack of polish, but no player in this draft class offers higher reward potential for this barren offense.