Setting Realistic 2012 Draft Expectations In Light Of One Cameron Jerrell Newton

NEW YORK, NY - FILE: NFL COmmissioner Roger Goodell poses for a photo with Carolina Panthers #1 overall pick Cam Newton from the UNiversity of Auburn during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City. According to reports on July 29, 2011 Newton, the 2011 overall first draft pick and the Carolina Panthers have agreed to a deal for four years and $22 million. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

As I was recently thinking about the upcoming draft, the following question came to my mind: Can the Carolina Panthers actually have a better draft than they did last year? It didn’t take long for me to realize that the answer to this question is quite simply, and unequivocally, no. There’s only one explanation for this, and it is none other than our very own franchise quarterback, Cam Newton. In fact, even if you could somehow guarantee that every player from the 2011 draft not named Cam would wash out into the deep blue yonder next year attached to a surfboard with Kealoha Pilares, my answer would still be no. Furthermore, if you could go another step beyond this by guaranteeing that every player we pick in the 2012 draft is going to be a steal, my answer again would still be no. Some of you may disagree, and that’s fine. We are all entitled to our own opinions. Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about where Cam will be going for the immediate future, and I can breathe a sigh of relief just knowing that the Carolina Panthers were able to get their hands on a once-in-a-lifetime athlete. Let’s quickly revisit his record breaking season again.

By now we all know what kind of player we acquired when we drafted Cam Newton. Simply put. He’s a machine. With all the natural ability in the world, he only went out and broke almost every conceivably important rookie quarterback record. Here they are again for old times sake: Most passing yards for a rookie debut(422), the most passing yards for a rookie in his first two starts(854), the only player to ever pass for 400+ yards in each of his first two starts, the most passing yards for rookie in a season(4, 051), the first quarterback ever to throw for 4,000+ and 500+(706) in a season, the most rushing touchdowns for a quarterback in a season(14). As amazing as those numbers are, I’d now like to express my appreciation for another part of Cam’s repertoire, his character.

Despite the fact that I derive all kinds of pleasure from those outward manifestations of his abilities in the form of all-time records, I am even more impressed with what seems to be going on inside of his head and heart. Cam displayed a maturity that was beyond his 22 years of living. Although he did struggle at times with pouting after a defeat, I can’t recall a moment when he intentionally threw a teammate under the bus. His humility was perhaps the most surprising and appealing virtue of all. I can’t remember a moment when he spoke arrogantly to a reporter in a way that was belittling or condescending. Cam always took the time to answer questions with an openness and honesty that you don’t frankly see too often with players of his stature, which was very refreshing. This is not to say that I believe Cam is perfect or he will be immune to any future mistakes. On the contrary, everyone is human and we are destined to fail to some degree or another. As long as his shortcomings are on the field rather than off the field, the Panthers should be just fine.

So when it comes to the 2012 draft, don’t expect the Panthers to outdo what they accomplished in last year’s draft. As I previously opined, that would be too difficult to duplicate or surpass. The best the Panthers can hope to do in the upcoming draft is to surround Cam with solid talent, and he will continue to lead this team by example with a drive and determination that is unmatched. Can you remember how you felt as a fan at this time last year? Did you have feelings of hopelessness and despair? I certainly did, and the extreme reversal of fortune that was realized over a span of one season is part of the reason why it feels so good to be a Carolina Panthers fan today.

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