Scouting Report: Cam Newton
Perhaps the most widely discussed prospect in the 2011 NFL Draft, Cam Newton will be drafted with the hopes of becoming a franchise passer. His one year of starting experience was one of the most dramatic in recent memory, as he led his Auburn team to a National Championship victory amidst serious NCAA allegations. He burst on to the scene as a tremendous physical talent who soon began carving SEC defenses with his legs and arm. His efforts in only one season made him the landslide winner in the Heisman Trophy race. A subject of much criticism, Newton has held up well, displaying remarkable mental toughness. On draft day, expect him off the board very early. While he may not be unanimously the best quarterback in the draft, he is a unique prospect that will come off the board in the first five picks.
As a decision maker, Cam Newton can only be described as “raw.” In Gus Malzahn’s spread offense, Newton was asked to make one read and act on it. Often times when pressured, he decided to step up and go after the first down with his feet. Though his decisions ultimately won Auburn many games, it is clear his college system did not prepare him adequately for the NFL. He has a lot to learn and will likely be asked to learn in a small amount of time. There does not appear to be any mental block in place and he should make strides as a decision maker with repetition and experience.
Newton possesses terrific arm strength. In only one year of college football, he showed the ability to make every throw at the next level. He is capable of throwing with excellent velocity, sometimes fitting balls into very small windows. During the season he flashed the ability to toss a very pretty deep ball and had several “wow” throws. His arm strength allowed him to get away with throwing off balance in college. Throwing deep when he failed to step into passes clearly hurt his accuracy, as he occasionally overthrew open receivers.
Many Newton retractors point to accuracy as a concrete on-field concern in transitioning to the next level. While he certainly is not perfect, Cam is much better in this department than he is often given credit for. He entered the season very raw as a passer, but his accuracy improved throughout, and he wound up completing 66.1% of his passes during his only year as a starter. When he did miss, sloppy footwork was often to blame. He took far too many shots down the middle of the field without his feet set. In the NFL, these kinds of errors can translate to turnovers. He will need to continue to improve in this area, but right now has put too many tough passes on the money to be considered an “inaccurate” passer.
To be an effective player in the NFL, Newton must show commitment to fixing his throwing mechanics. In college, his footwork proved to be unrefined and downright sloppy at times. Too often, he would throw balls without setting his feet. There is no doubt that his elite physical capabilities allowed him to get away with a lot more error than he can grow accustomed to at the next level. He appears a work-in-progress taking snaps and dropping back from under center. If there is a positive, it is that footwork is among the most correctable flaws a quarterback can have. Again, the keys here will be experience and repetition. Most of his accuracy issues stem from throwing off his back foot or across his body while on the move.
There have been few college quarterbacks in the past few decades that can rival Cam Newton’s ability to run the ball. Of course, what is rarer, is the fact that he torched SEC defenses on the ground standing an imposing 6’5 248. He is surprisingly quick, is a long-strider with speed, and displays good run power. His mobility is one of his greatest strengths as a player and with more understanding of the game, could make him a lethal pro. He has the potential to buy time to throw with elite elusiveness in the pocket. That ability to keep plays alive and pick up first downs with his feet make Newton a top prospect.
Though raw as a passer, Newton shows a very quick release when throwing. His athletic ability is displayed in the way he throws the ball, where he effortlessly releases a tight spiral. There will be some adjustments made while transitioning to throwing under-center, but there is a very solid foundation here to build on. As long as he does not struggle learning his reads or drops, he will be able to get rid of the ball quickly and cleanly in the NFL.
Size, Speed, Strength & Agility
Cam Newton can only be described as a “rare” physical specimen. At quarterback, his physical tools are rivaled only by the likes of Vince Young, Matt Jones, or Terrelle Pryor. He shows incredible speed and agility for his size. Often in college he appeared to be a man amongst boys, capable of beating opponents with his legs or his arm. He is athletically built at 6’5 248 and has tremendous overall power for his position. Many SEC defenses know all about his quickness and ability in space, as he exceeded 150 yards rushing in five conference games. Physically, it is tough to find any quarterback in football (past or present) that compares to Newton.
You would be hard-pressed to find a player in the 2011 draft class with more potential than Newton. Aside from possessing all the physical ability in the world, he has also proven mental toughness at the college level. He can make all the throws, has potentially elite pocket elusiveness, and could develop into a uniquely dominant pro player. During the 2010 season, he faced more adversity than perhaps any other player in college football. Rather than distract Cam, the added attention only served to motivate him and he made great strides on the field despite allegations off it. The potential to be a franchise quarterback is there. His success in the NFL will largely depend on his focus, determination, and ability to learn quickly; however, he has been tested mentally more than any player in this class and has always risen to the task. He has the type of personality to embrace his role as a franchise saver.
For every word you hear about Newton on the field, it seems like you hear two about him off it. His character has been the subject of scrutiny since allegations arose in October concerning a “play for pay” scandal. Leading his team to a National Champioship victory only served to increase public attention surrounding his personality and past. While I cannot speak for the unknown, Cam has obviously matured a great deal from the person he was at the University of Florida. His personality has often been described as “cocky” and the national perception is that he is very self-involved. During the draft process, many have attempted to tear him down and tarnish his reputation. I choose to see his character in another light. I see a confident, positive person that has done a remarkable job of learning on the fly. He displays commitment to his team on and off the field, with a very strong work-ethic. More so than many quarterback prospects, Newton has already shown the ability to handle adversity and do so with a smile on his face. Like him or not, it is hard for anyone to question the mental toughness he embodied en-route to a National Championship and Heisman Trophy. I believe he has what it takes to handle the responsibilities and pressures of being the face of an NFL franchise.
2010: Started in all 14 games.
2009: Played at Binn JUCO, leading the team to a JUCO National Championship.
2008: Played in one game with no starts at Florida.
2007: Played in five games with no starts at Florida.
Sociology major at Auburn.
Awards & Honors
2010: Heisman Trophy winner. Davey O’Brien Award winner. Maxwell Award winner. Manning Award winner. SEC Offensive Player of the Year (coaches, AP). National Player of the Year (AP). Rivals, Walter Camp, Sporting News Player of the Year. 1st Team All-SEC (coaches, media). Offensive MVP of SEC Championship Game.
2009: NJCAA Honorable Mention All-American.
Prospect Video Clips
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