NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell poses for a photo with Carolina Panthers #1 overall pick Cam Newton from Auburn during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Now that we have our bright new shiny draft class it's time for our annual CSR draft profiles. Starting with this post we will feature each Panther draft pick, their strengths & weaknesses, value of the pick, fit in the depth chart, starting potential and whatever other miscellaneous info we feel is pertinent to the pick.
So starting with the Panthers first pick in the draft, which also happened to be the #1 pick overall we have QB Cameron Newton. Let's assume you've been living in a hole for the last 3 or 4 months because a lot has been written about Newton but I'm going to do my best summarize it.
Newton brings the kind of raw potential to the QB position that is arguably at heights not seen in modern football history. At 6'6" tall, 250 lbs Newton runs a blazing 40 yd dash (4.59) and has an exceptionally strong arm. He is more than mobile in the pocket, bordering on downright elusive and can create something out of nothing when all else fails. There is no NFL throw this guy can't make. He is also coming off of an undefeated season in which he led Auburn to the National Championship and won the Heisman Trophy. Everyone seems to agree this kid has simply been a winner his entire college career and it seems to be infectious to the players around him.
Off the field Newton is known for inspiring his teammates, being very approachable and affable and having a school boy kind of charm to him. It's these qualities that form he core of his leadership ability He's not a 'Do as I say' type of leader; he's a 'Do as I do' type and that is key to earning the respect of veteran players in an NFL locker room.
More Cam Newton draft profile... after the jump...
Newton's weaknesses have been well publicized but the ones that worry Panther fans the most has to be the ability perform adequate drops from under center and his ability to read defenses, check off at the line and find the open receiver after a couple check downs. Much has been made of Newton coming from a spread, simplified offense in which he typically made one or two reads at most and then took off with the ball. A review of the BCS game tape showed numerous instances where the Oregon defense was successful in getting Newton to make bad reads and prevent him from making big plays (but he still won the game). The Panther staff apparently thinks these issues are correctable after running Newton through multiple 'white board' scenarios to test his football knowledge. Rumors are he did very well in this aspect of the testing (in spite of scoring a 20 on the Wonderlic).
Off the field Newton has had a number of negative events in his past, some involving bad decisions he made a few years back with other programs and another involving his father. It is this aspect I think the Panthers continued to dwell on and took the most time in performing their due diligence. In the end Newton was able to mitigate these concerns with his open and honest answers and of course that charm we discussed earlier. Many took big issue his 'entertainer and icon' comment a few months back but I think that was of little concern to the Panthers. I would expect an NFL caliber QB to have a bit of cockiness to him, especially one who just won a BCS Championship and the Heisman. To Newton's credit he seems to pull off the cockiness without appearing arrogant or condescending.
Value of the Pick
The fact Newton was the first overall selection places undue expectations on the rookie the other QBs selected in this draft will not have. Many pundits have claimed if the Panthers didn;t take him #1 overall he would have slid out of the top 10. I'm not buying that personally as just as many have said he would not have made it past #5. Regardless, if he develops into a starting caliber QB in three years he will have justified the Panthers use of the #1 overall pick. If we are still scratching our heads wondering if he will ever reach his potential in that same time frame...well, you get the picture.
With Newton its not a question of IF he will start but simply WHEN will he start. Conventional wisdom says to let the kid sit a season or two and then you can march him out a winner to great fanfare. Yet the Panthers have newly defined themselves as unconventional and have given indications they would prefer Newton win the job in training camp. I doubt they will simply hand him the keys but instead ask him to earn. My guess that if the degress of separation between Newton and whoever they have competing against him is small he will get the nod.
Chances of starting Game 1: 75%
Fit in the Depth Chart
This topic will be very pertinent to the draftees that were selected later in the draft but for Newton its real easy. This kid will at worst be at worst our back-up for a season but more likely is a starter early in 2011.
So please help me welcome Cameron Newton to the Panthers organization. I hope you are as excited as I am getting as watch his videos and think about the tremendous potential play making ability he will bring to our offense
Here's a scouting report on Newton that includes his combine results.
Here's also one of his many highlight videos that starts with his Heisman Trophy win