Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cam Newton's Rising Draft Stock

One of the best things about the lead up to the NFL Draft is reading every big writers Mock Drafts and seeing where they predict players will be taken.  Its always interesting to see who climbs into the first round after an impressive Combine or Pro Day (Andy Dalton of TCU comes to mind) and conversely who falls out of the top 10 after being a consensus top pick forever (this year that is Nick Fairley from Auburn).

This year the player that has moved the most, in terms of where he has been projected to be taken, is Cam Newton.  Despite the fact that Newton led Auburn to a National Championship in January and won the Heisman Trophy he wasn't projected as a  1st round pick.  Many experts had him pegged as a 2nd or even 3rd round pick as it was believed he didn't have the skill set to make the transition to the pro style game.

There were also character concerns as all year long Newton had been involved in a highly publicized scandal concerning whether his father took money for him to play at Auburn.  Lots of people wondered how much Newton knew and whether he was involved in the scandal and was letting his dad take all the heat.  Then there was his controversial past at Florida most notably the alleged theft of a laptop and instances of academic cheating.

Needless to say when it came to Cam Newton there were more questions than answers.

Fast forward a few months and all of a sudden Cam Newton is the popular choice to be taken #1 overall by the Panthers on April 28th.  How did Newton go from being a possible 2nd or 3rd round pick to now being the favorite to be taken first overall?

The answer is actually pretty simple.  For all his shortcomings in the character department, in which he does have many, there is no player in this draft with even close to the same potential that Cam Newton has.  His combination of athletic ability and marketability can't be ignored and make him worth the risk of being taken first overall.

Since 2001 there have been 8 quarterbacks taken 1st overall (Michael Vick, David Carr, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Alex Smith, JaMarcus Russell, Matthew Stafford and Sam Bradford). Of those 8 quarterbacks only 3 have been busts (Carr, Smith and Russell) with the jury still being out on one (Stafford).  That means that based on recent history Cam Newton has pretty much a 50-50 chance of being a total bust and crippling the Carolina Panthers for years to come.

Mel Kiper of ESPN stated the Panther's dilemma perfectly in his latest mock draft when he wrote, "There are immediate needs, and there is a decision that you believe will change the direction of your franchise for years to come."  That's the important part right there.  The Panthers need someone to market their team around as former stars such as Julius Peppers have left for free agency, or in the case of wide receiver Steve Smith, have become irrelevant.

Kiper continues by writing, "If they really see Newton as the transformative player that can be both a Pro Bowl quarterback and face of the franchise who draws a lot of buzz, they can make this pick. If talent alone was all they were concerned with, Newton would be an easy choice. But this pick also requires a belief in his development and maturity. Certainly, however, Newton's potential is significant"

There's that word again, potential.  Whenever you draft a player it is always based on what you think their potential is.  How good can they be as a professional and do they have the potential to become a superstar that can change the fortune of a franchise?  I believe Newton has that ability.

In terms of athleticism there are no questions.  Newton is an athletic freak and his showing at the Combine proved that.  He ran the 40 in just 4.59 seconds, broad jumped 10 feet 6 inches and had a 35-inch vertical all while being 6'4 220lbs.  He has incredible arm strength and can throw the ball 60 to 70 yards with ease.  His performance made Trent Dilfer say, "The ceiling is so astronomically high for Cam Newton that the scouts, the GMs, the coaches are really going to be slobbering about the prospects of having him on their team."

The two biggest issues Newton has are accuracy and maturity.  The accuracy is something that can be fixed with a little patience and some solid coaching.  The maturity is something Newton is going to have to figure out on his own. 

Before the Combine even started Newton was quoted by Sports Illustrated columnist Peter King as saying, "I see myself not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon."  While it is good to see that Newton realizes football is a business it does not look good when a college kid is talking about becoming an icon before he has even taken a snap in the NFL.

To me the one thing I always come back to when talking about Cam Newton is his performance in the Iron Bowl at the end of the Auburn season against Alabama.  The game was in Alabama and Auburn fell behind early 24-0.  If the Tigers didn't win then they could kiss a shot at the National Championship goodbye. 

Instead of folding Newton led Auburn back and they eventually won the game 28-27 throwing for 3 touchdowns and running in another. It was probably one of the greatest performances I have ever seen and it really showed the greatness of Cam Newton.  To pull off a victory like that, on the road and in a hostile environment all the while having to deal with talks of scandal and eligibility is impressive and proves Newton is a winner.

This is what coaches and General Managers look at.  They look past the immaturity and the accuracy problems and see the potential for greatness that Newton has.  It truly is undeniable and its why he more than likely will be the #1 overall pick come draft day.

Random YouTube Video

No comments: