As the dust settles on the 2011 season I'm left wondering who was the driving force for selecting Cam Newton. I refuse to believe it was dumb luck that saw them take a physically gifted, yet mechanically raw player and turn him into more Ben Roethlisberger than Tim Tebow. There was an eye for talent when looking at the position that we hadn't seen in the past from an organization traditionally weak at selecting QBs. Over the last decade we've seen players like Randy Fasani, Chris Weinke, Stefan LeFors, Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike all try their hand at playing, and with poor results.
Now we are entering the 2012 season, and while the rest of the playoffs get mopped up one of the challenges the Carolina Panthers will need to face is finding a long term backup for Cam Newton, which could be harder than finding Cam himself. I say this because the goal of any team is to find system stability from their backup QB. You want a skill-set that somewhat resembles your starting QB in order to switch players as needed, but not experience a major drop-off in production. With Carolina running a tactile, option heavy, deep ball system it will require them to find someone with unique Cam-like abilities, but also not overspend to get him. Getting these players is mostly luck; the Green Bay Packers stumbled upon Matt Flynn, the Patriots invested a high pick in Ryan Mallet and this season the Texans leaned heavily on T.J. Yates when the chips were down.
It so happens there's a player trending to be a 5th or 6th round selection this draft who I think could be a quality backup for Cam Newton, and a player with similar abilities who could really support the QB position and give the Panthers some system stability should they need another QB to step in. We'll look at this prospect...
After the jump
If you were to look at Cam Newton and Russell Wilson standing next to each other you probably would never peg them to be similar football players. If you look past Wilson's diminutive stature (5'10") you'll see a player with excellent arm strength, stellar accuracy and a similar ability to use his athleticism to avoid the pass rush. Also close to Newton's ability is his knack for learning quickly, as we saw in Wilson's transition from NC State to Wisconsin and seamlessly picking up a new offense.
I would wager that if the Richmond, VA native was three inches taller he'd be in rarefied air at the top of the 1st round, but at Doug Flutie's stature he's destined to fall. The one major concern for a team who drafts him is his mercurial attitude toward his future. A two sport star who is still under contract from the Colorado Rockies who drafted him in 2010, Wilson has, up to this point he's been fairly non-commital about which sport he wants to play long term, a move which was the catalyst for him leaving NC State. Currently though Wilson seems committed to playing football and finding his way onto a roster.
It behooves the Carolina Panthers to find a long term backup to sit behind Cam Newton. Neither Derek Anderson, nor Jimmy Clausen are long term options as neither have the abilities to run the same offense as Newton. While Wilson is not the perfect pro prospect, I believe he could be the perfect backup prospect to sit behind Cam and run the offense if/when he's needed. For the investment of a 5th or 6th rounder he could offer much needed peace of mind, especially when the starting QB plays as physically as Newton does.