Quarterback Cam Newton delivered a national championship to the Auburn Tigers after the 2010 season. He enters the 2011 NFL draft with a myriad of questions surrounding him. Newton could be a top-10 draft pick or he could slide considerably. Here’s when he might be drafted and why.
Here are some of the pros and cons to drafting Cam Newton. All stats are courtesy of CBSSports.com and ESPN.com.
#1. Mobile Quarterback
Newton is at his best when he can move around or out of the pocket. He’s able to keep his eyes on his receiving targets and can make a decent throw on the move.
Newton is capable of scrambling for a big play if necessary. He’s strong enough to drag smaller tacklers, but quick enough to outrun a linebacker in pursuit. His 40 time has been reported to be as low as 4.52, but he likely runs closer to a 4.55 or 4.6 in pads.
#2. Prototypical Size
Newton is listed at 6’6″ and 250 pounds. He’s large for the quarterback position. Although his weight has never been an issue, Newton should probably have a weight clause built into his contract because he’s already playing at 250 pounds. If he gains any more weight than that, he’ll lose some of his speed and quickness.
#3. Arm Strength and Deep Ball Accuracy
Newton has one of the strongest arms in the 2011 NFL draft. He’s easily able to throw 50 to 70 yards, depending upon whether he can set his feet and complete a full throwing motion. Newton is most accurate throwing a deep pass and will be able to stretch the field vertically in the NFL.
#1. Significant Off the Field Red Flags
Newton faced felony larceny and felony obstruction of justice charges in 2008 while he was still at the University of Florida. He was arrested and suspended from the team. Newton completed a diversion program so that the charges would be dropped. However if Newton faces another legal incident, he’s likely to be treated much more harshly.
The NCAA investigated Newton on a pay-for-play scheme during 2010. Although the NCAA did not suspend him, there’s a significant difference between being found innocent and not being charged for a lack of evidence.
With two major red flags in his collegiate career, Newton will have to answer questions about them constantly before the draft. Any minor lie, changing his story, or giving a poor answer will impact his draft stock significantly.
#2. Transition to the NFL
Auburn’s offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn, designed a scheme that was relatively simple for Newton to run. He took a majority of his snaps out of the shotgun and made only 1 or 2 reads before running. Defensive coordinators did not run multiple or very complicated blitz packages at Newton.
Newton also played significant time only in his single year at Auburn, raising concerns that he may be a 1 season wonder.
#3. Short and Intermediate Accuracy
Although Newton throws an excellent deep ball, he frequently misfires on short and intermediate passes. He needs to develop a better sense of touch and learn when to throw softly. Newton also has issues with his throwing mechanics when he’s moving. He tends to overcome his problems with sheer arm strength instead of proper fundamentals, leading to concerns about his longevity and the possibility of arm strain.
Like the Texas Longhorns’ Vince Young in the 2006 NFL draft or the Florida Gators’ Tim Tebow in the 2010 NFL draft, Cam Newton sparks a lot of debate about his draft position. So far I’ve seen Newton predicted to be the 1st overall pick and mock drafts in which he’s slid late into the 2nd round.
To me, if a team invests a 1st round pick into a quarterback, the player is expected to be the face of the franchise. For most of the successful teams in the NFL, even casual fans can name the quarterback. In an ideal world, a 1st round quarterback should be someone who can carry a team to the playoffs on a regular basis. But such a player also needs to be a leader for the franchise and the community. He’s going to be an icon for the market that the team plays in.
This is part of the reason why I have a difficult time seeing Cam Newton as one of the top-10 picks of the 2011 NFL draft. While Newton has top-10 talent, he’s going to face a significant transition period. The drafting team also has to sell Newton as the face of the franchise, despite the fact that he faced felony charges at the University of Florida and he may or may not have been guilty in a pay-for-play scheme. Most fans are going to have strong opinions about the pay-for-play issue in particular.
Now while Newton could still be drafted in the top-10, I see his best value being in the middle or late in the 1st round. While he’s incredibly talented, he has too many red flags to be at the top of the draft.
CBSSports.com Cam Newton’s Player Profile. January 18th, 2011.
ESPN.com Cam Newton’s Player Page. January 18th, 2011.