Cam Newton: Good Pick or Bad Pick?

I've been away and had little time to really engage much here at Cat Scratch Reader. I still follow along with the news and front page articles guys have posted now and then. I just haven't had time to get in and offer very many opinions this year. Just too much going on, not the least of which is that I opted not to renew my PSL this year. Doesn't mean I'm down on the Pathers or the change in coaching staff or anything. My life's just gone in some different directions and I'll be watching the games from home from now on.


Which brings me to some of the stuff I've been watching and hearing (whether on TV, sports talk radio, or various internet websites) about the Panthers' #1 pick this year. First, I think it's a really bad year to have the #1 pick. The labor union issues well as the on-again, off-again lockout...this is just a weird year filled with uncertainty. In addition, there aren't a lot of surefire prospects that you'd feel comfortable taking #1 overall. And, given all the needs the Panthers have (i.e., QB, DT, CB, WR1, WR2, RB, OL), you'd think there'd be somebody in this year's draft class they could pinpoint as a bonafide #1 pick. But I'm hard-pressed to find anyone I like enough spend that #1 pick on them.


That said, I keep hearing Cam Newton is the guy. And that's a very gray pick. Could be a bust. Could be an amazing future Hall of Famer. It all just depends. But there's enough "trusted sources" from so many, varied media outlets that it looks more and more like that's who Hurney, Rivera, and company are going to choose. With that in mind, I've been weighing the pro's and con's of having him as our QB and I've sort of distilled everything down to the following observations...which I've broken into two different mindsets: Why Cam Newton is a bad pick...and...why Cam Newton is a good pick. I'll get into the particulars of each viewpoint, after the break...


Why Cam Newton Is A Bad Pick

I've got multiple issues with Cam Newton as a #1 overall pick. In order, they are:


1) Untrustworthy - The guy got caught cheating in college while attending Florida...not once, not twice, but three times! That speaks to character issue problems. Big time. Some have even described Cam as "disingenuous" in his interviews and how he comes across. If so, I could easily see Hurney and company buying into whatever Newton says about himself, when in fact, the reality comes out being very different...and that's because he's lied before. He's cheated before. And again, he's got character issues that would make it very hard to buy into what he's saying.


2) Selfish - The guy announced he wants to become an "icon." Now, you could interpret that in a good way and say it means he's going to be really self-discipline and motivated to become so good in his NFL career that he transcends the sport, much like Michael Jordan in basketball, Wayne Gretzky in hockey, etc. Or, you could interpret that in a bad way and see him as a kid who wants it all, both on and off the field...the stardom, the perks, the celebrity status...whatever. To me, those aren't always good things. And, when you have a kid like Cam Newton making a comment like that (which he attempted to clarify later...poorly, I believe), I think it shows his true colors. He's a selfish guy. I think he's in it for himself and whatever accolades he can achieve for himself. And I think that'll be hard to translate into proven, trustworty leadership at the NFL level. It sends up a red flag, regardless.


3) Not Very Smart - Aside from the mistakes he's off the field...and with his poorly worded commentary to the media about his aspirations/interests...I think the kid's not cerebral enough to go on and become a franchise QB. The athleticism is there. Certainly. But if he can't even get up on a whiteboard and diagram one of the "simple" plays from college, how are you reasonably going to expect him to wrap his head around the complexity of plays and concepts at the NFL level? This sends up another red flag for me. You hope he's teachable and can learn these aspects of the game. But, how long will it take him? In addition, if he didn't learn his lesson from cheating those three times at Florida such that he winds up at Auburn, what makes one think he's going to suddenly demonstrate the capability to learn the things he needs to learn at the NFL level, especially when he'll be surrounded with distractions as he pursues becoming an "icon"...?


4) Not Rated Very Highly By The Experts - So far as I know (or have heard), none of the football evaluation experts have Cam Newton at the top of their draft board. Many don't even have him in their Top 10. Some have him all the way down at #49, which means...not even in the first round. A lot of that has to do with the issues cited above. There's too much risk associated with him, despite the athleticism and potential. And, given that I'm NOT an NFL scout or talent evaluator, I'm inclined to listen more to the experts.


5) Not Very Accurate - From his showing at the combine, he didn't throw very well. Many of the experts cited him for his inaccuracy. Cam himself demonstrated he was disappointed with his performance. He did great in his 40-yard dash times, his broad jump, high jump, etc. But, when it came to the fundamentals of making the throws an NFL QB needs to make, he didn't come off any better than anyone else out there or anyone we already have on the roster. In fact, he underperformed many of them. So, again, this sends up a red flag for buyer beware. And, it causes talent evaluators to reconsider just how much "upside" Cam Newton really has. There's no denying he SHOULD have the physical tools to get it done. He just wasn't showcasing them in his workouts. Presumably, adjustments can be made. But again, how long will it take for those adjustments to have an effect on his performance?


6) QB Coaching - I believe the Panthers have a poor track record with QBs...both when it comes to evaluating their talent AND when it comes to coaching and developing them. Now, thankfully, we've got a different coaching staff this year. If John Fox still had his staff in Carolina, I'd completely be against the Cam Newton pick, because even if he had potential in him, I'd be disinclined to believe the Panthers (under Fox's leadership) could bring it out of him. So, the question is immediately on the table for Ron Rivera's staff, too. How capable is our coaching staff in developing Cam Newton into a franchise QB? We'd better have someone really good at it. I'm not yet convinced that we do. Time will tell, but for now, given our track record with washout QBs, this is still another concern the Panthers would do well to alleviate if they make Cam their man.


Why Cam Newton Is A Good Pick

1) Thoroughbred Athlete - There's no questioning what Cam can bring to the table in terms of athleticism. He's got power, speed, size, elusiveness, you-name-it...the physical tools are there. The same has been said of some QBs in the past who didn't pan out for various reasons, but Cam's natural gifts seem JUST a slight bit higher than most of the guys you might go back and compare him to...


2) Scrambling Capability - Given the amount of pressure that opposing defenses have managed to bring on our offense over the past couple of years, Cam will need to evade the pass-rush and create on the run. These are things he did very well at Auburn. Some say he has a Ben Roethlisberger-like ability to shrug off would be sack artists and tacklers, buying just that extra bit of time to create something out of nothing. We could use a quality like that on offense rather than watching QBs go down in a flurry of dust, curl up in the fetal position, or fling balls out of bounds 2 out of every 3 plays.


3) Running Capability - Cam is actually a viable threat in the running game. And, he has the size to hold up to some hits if he heads downfield. If Rivera and Chudzinski are smart, they could utilize a player like that to augment and enhance our offensive output. Even if he fakes a handoff to Stewart (or Deangelo if he stays), he's got the power and speed to run to the pylon and score his own touchdowns. That ability to put points on the board would go a LONG way in turning around the offensive woes of the Panthers.


4) Strong Arm - He can fling the ball really far. There's no danger of underthrowing people like we saw Delhomme do a lot in his later years. If he's got a receiving corps that can stretch the field, people have to respect his ability to make the big play with his arm. And, if opposing defenses honor that and send more guys back to cover the deep receivers, it gives Cam more operating room (provided he has blockers) to pull the ball down and run with it if no one's open. Even if he stays back and waits for a TE to come open underneath, this kind of threat in the passing game will do wonders to prevent defenses from stacking the box on our RBs. And, if they can't do that, prepare for more productive output (barring injuries) from Jonathan Stewart behind Fiammetta as a lead-blocker and Jeff Otah as pile driver on the right side.


5) Upside and Ceiling Potential - If anything, Cam has more potential than anyone else. He just has to realize it and work hard to reach it. Will his desire to become an "icon" and prove people wrong fuel him to do exactly that? Along with every other Panthers fan, I certainly hope so. But, to do that, he needs to minimize distractions. That might mean his off-field promotions and partying as his lifestyle undergoes a major transformation. And it also might mean distancing himself from his father's (seemingly at times) bad influence. It also means purposefully making himself coachable. He needs to listen and learn from Chudzinski and his QB coach. He needs to learn his playbook inside and out. The bottom line for me is Cam has a pretty tall mountain to climb where he needs to mature...both as a person in terms of his behavior and mentality, and as a student of the game.


6) Proven Winner - Success breeds success. Cam has excelled at every level in which he's performed athletically. He has a championship to prove it. It's hard to ignore that. And, if he can bring that kind of winning attitude and inspire those around him, he could indeed make for a viable, long-term franchise QB.




Anyway, that's just my two cents on the matter. If we go with Cam Newton, we should all rally behind him until he gives us a reason to do otherwise. If we don't go with Cam Newton, maybe we wind up regretting it as he excels for some other team. Or, maybe we take a different player (or more, if we trade down and acquire additional picks) that pay dividends for us just as great. I don't know what will happen, but either way we go, Cam Newton is going to have an impact in the NFL, however brief or enduring it might be.



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