Cam Newton will be NFL draft’s biggest question mark

In 2010 Tim Tebow was the NFL draft prospect who sparked the biggest disagreements, with some observers saying he was a future franchise quarterback and others saying he couldn’t play quarterback in the NFL at all. This year Cam Newton appears destined to be the subject of the same types of discussions.

Albert Breer of NFL Network has a good report on Newton based on conversations with NFL personnel people who agree that Newton is athletically superior and a more natural passer than Tebow, but who say questions remain about what kind of pro quarterback Newton will be.

The biggest question centers on whether Newton’s skills in the spread attack used at Auburn will translate to an NFL offense.

“The structure of that offense made him look more accurate than he is,” one scout told Breer. “It’s all play-action based, throwing to wide open receivers, with bubble screens that pad his numbers. He gets so much respect because of his athletic ability.”

That athletic ability is considerable. Newton finished his one and only season at Auburn with 264 carries for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns. For a comparison, in two years at Virginia Tech, Michael Vick totaled 223 carries for 1,216 yards and 17 touchdowns.

But is a quarterback whose running abilities are such an important part of his skill set the kind of quarterback an NFL franchise will want to build around?

“If you need a quarterback, no, he’s not Tom Brady or Peyton Manning,” one executive said. “But in the other genre — the big, running quarterback, and a winner — he’s pretty good. And if you’re Carolina [which has the top overall pick], you’re gonna have to take a look.”

Carolina will surely take a long look over the next three months.

39 responses to “Cam Newton will be NFL draft’s biggest question mark

  1. These NFL teams have to be hating the spread offenses in college. Your talking about someone like the Bills drafting a guy number 3 overall and teaching him how to play the position.

  2. This guy is a replica of Vince Young on the field. So if Young went in the top 5, I would say Newton is worthy of a first round pick… maybe even as high as top 15.

  3. Carolina would be making a big mistake taking Newton at #1. He’s not going to be as NFL ready as Josh Freeman, and as good as he is, Freeman isn’t worth the first pick in the draft. The Panthers have too many other holes to fill.

    Some team will take him too high, but it won;t be the Panthers unless they trade down… way down.

  4. “If you need a quarterback, no, he’s not Tom Brady or Peyton Manning,”

    Yeh, and Brady was a sixth round pick if I remember right. Something none of us knows is what’s Newton’s football IQ. How smart is the guy. He may be better athlete than Tebow or a more natural passer, but can he pick up the X’s and O’s like apparently Tebow can? Or is it better off for Newton to sit for a year or two while he learns and doesn’t have his confidence shattered.

  5. Remember when Michael Vick came into the league, and how everyone said the days of the pocket passer were over, that running, athletic QB’s were going to transcend the way the game is played.

    Um…almost a decade later and we’re still waiting for one of those guys to win a Super Bowl.

    SB Winners: Big Ben, Brady, Manning (both of them) Brad Johnson, Drew Brees.

    So yes, while Tebow and Newton make for nice stories, I’ll just keep Big Ben, thank you. 🙂

  6. Who was the last serious running threat qb to win a Sb? I’d say Steve Young. Since then, no one really unless you count elway, which I don’t.

  7. Newton is a project. A project probably worth a late first rounder. So I would expect a bad team with a tumultuous QB situation trading up into the late 1st or early 2nd to grab him, a la Tebow.

    He’s got a better arm than Tebow and given the chance would have probably proved he’s a more bruising, agile runner.

    But he’s a 1 year starter, has bad footwork, hasn’t proven he can read defenses going through his progressions, and defers to the run when he should check down. The spread-option offense doesn’t translate to the NFL.

    But this kid has it all. He’s ridiculously talented. Just a gifted athlete. He may be a question mark but he’s worth the risk of a high pick with the possible rate of return having no ceiling.

  8. Cam will get 90% of the media coverage, and will be the biggest bust. He’s not an NFL QB. He’ll be drafted in round 3 or 4. Why? Not only did he play in a gimmick offense, but he has red flags all over him.

  9. Hasn’t it already been proven time and time again that a black running QB from the spread offense isn’t worth more than a 3rd rd pick if that. Quality NFL backup and/or barely capable starter.

  10. Gb fan, exactly.

    Which is funny. Mine gets 4 thumbs down yours gets 4 up and we said the same thing.

    There’s some irony…

  11. This pick has Redskins all over it- and that is not a good thing for Skins fans. Newton is a boy amongst men in college, in the NFL he gets crushed.

  12. Those kind of QBs are great on Madden, but the NFL requires smart, accurate, pocket passers; if they can run also…great but the wins are made from inside the pocket.

  13. FinFan68 says: Jan 16, 2011 10:31 AM

    Those kind of QBs are great on Madden, but the NFL requires smart, accurate, pocket passers; if they can run also…great but the wins are made from inside the pocket.

    I agree completely. However I don’t believe this precludes players such as Vick, Young, Newton, or Tebow from being successful. Vick proved that he can be a capable, accurate pocket passer as long as he stops deferring to the run every play, spends time studying defenses and making good reads, and using his unmatched running ability as a last resort weapon.

    Before everyone turns red, I’m well aware that Vick got away from this toward the end of the season. Their last 3 or 4 games were terrible. But that window in which he was playing like the NFL MVP, that’s what I’m talking about. These players can succeed. Newton will need significant work on his mechanics – specifically footwork and snapping the ball under center – under the tutelage of an experienced, patient coaching staff. But it’s not impossible for him to succeed. In fact, his physical gifts give him a real chance.

  14. Cam Newton seems to be one of those definite boom or bust type players. He’s raw in terms of mechanics, etc. Only one year of major college football starting experience might be a red flag (Akilli Smith anyone?), too, not to mention character risks. He’s certainly a supremely gifted athlete, no doubt about it, and a good leader. Can he evolve into a winning, successful professional QB? Buyer beware.

  15. jwil444 says: Jan 16, 2011 10:26 AM

    “This pick has Redskins all over it- and that is not a good thing for Skins fans. Newton is a boy amongst men in college, in the NFL he gets crushed.”

    It will just extend the pain we’ve felt for quite sometime but unfortunately I think you’re right. That was my first reaction too…

    “Watch the freakin Redskins will take him to run a West Coast/accuracy timing based offense.”

    Hopefully Allen and Shanahan won’t be lured by his crazy physical talent. Running QB’s CAN succeed, but it’s such a long shot that I’d rather have something a little more “sure thing” at this point.

    Newton and Terrelle Pryor have the same problems…crazy talent, maybe too much to the point that they rely on it instead of honing their game. They both lack accuracy (especially in the short game and not throwing high to receivers) and still need a lot of work on their passing games. Difference with Pryor though is Tressel runs more of a Pro style offense and Pryor might be more mentally prepared for the NFL with 4 years in that system. Both could benefit from more time working on the little stuff like footwork and accuracy and film room work.

    I’d pass on either one though if I were the GM, unless they can be had for a late round pick and put in a development mode for a few years.

  16. This is a fairly pedestrian QB class in regards to guys that can step in sooner than later. I wouldn’t want my team to have to turn it over to a guy like Newton, or Blaine Gabbert, or Ryan Mallett next year, but if you draft a guy high, say mid-first or higher, chances are they will see the playing field in 2011.

    I would stack those three as Gabbert, Newton, Mallett. I’m not a huge Newton for the NFL fan, but I will give the kid credit in one regard. When Newton was asked to make multiple reads, which wasn’t often, it looked like the kid was trying. Problem was, the system is so geared towards a 1 read and go type style that it’s hard to gauge.

    I get the gut feeling that Newton’s floor might be 12 and Minnesota. Leslie Frazier seems like the Tony Dungy type of guy that might be able to work with guys with character questions. Still think that’s too high. I think Gabbert is gone by 7, if not higher. I could see a team move up for him.

  17. If Matt Ryan had one/tenth of Cam Newton’s mobility, the Falcons would have a future.

    So if Cam Newton could tone down the running and stay healthy, he would be one helluva project, in order to become like Josh Freeman.

    Josh Freeman will make it to the Super Bowl sooner than Matt Ryan.

    Looks like Aaron Rodgers will make it this year.

    Cam Newton obviously can handle public pressure….unlike Vince Young.

    Screw the NCAA anyway….veiled slaveowner association.

  18. I think we’ve seen this before.
    JuCo Transfer.
    Spread Offense.
    Athletic QB.
    Ridiculous numbers as a one year starter.
    Heisman candidate/winner
    Question marks around Pro ability.
    Potentially high draft pick.

    Brace yourself Cincinnati… here comes Akili Smith Part II.

  19. Can’t see what the NFL teams will see in him unless they get him later in the draft. Play right now, save the franchise, kind of QB, don’t see that.

  20. That athletic ability is considerable. Newton finished his one and only season at Auburn with 264 carries for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns. For a comparison, in two years at Virginia Tech, Michael Vick totaled 223 carries for 1,216 yards and 17 touchdowns.

    Newton has a whole one-year of experience as a QB, so please forgive me for overlooking his “running back” numbers to ask a simple question:

    Dude is a quarterback, right, so what are his, you know, passing stats? He can run like a gazelle for all anyone cares, but an NFL quarterback has to occassionally throw the ball, no?

    One year as a running quarterback …… yeah, I see success written all over this pick.

  21. Athletic ability… yes he has that. Auburn was no where near an NFL offense though. His passing motion is debatable just like Tebow.

    But all that aside, has someone missed the fact that he stole a laptop, was charged with three felonies, left a college on the day he was to be academically expelled for stealing papers and turning them in and then was pimped by his own dad to other SEC teams? This suggests more baggage than any draft pick in recent memory. Any team picking him would be stupid to ignore it all. Yet not one mention of any of this baggage in this, or other, pre-draft reports. Anyone running the business of football has to consider the person habits of the draftee, as well as, their chemistry in a locker room. That is if they want the business to be successful.

  22. I am dismayed that several of the posts about this story list Mr Newton’s race as though this is some determining factor in his ability to play or not. It is degrading to think that because he is a member of any racial group that this makes him able, or not able, to play any given position. While I too would want to celebrate my own race and ethnicity as a personal part of my life, I do not see that this has bearing as to anything on a football field. This young man is simply Cam Newton, left to make it or not on the content of his character; which, to date, I find to be very lacking; and not on the basis of his racial makeup.

  23. Scam Newton is not NFL ready. He needs to be able to read an NFL defense. He just doesn’t seem to be to intelligent. The game at the next level is head and shoulders above the collegiate game. I have not seen him thread one pass into tight coverage’s or windows and I watched all his games. He takes one look down field and runs. I bet he would be a hell of a TE. No doubt he has amazing physical ability, but if you look at someone like Luck… They are on two different planets at the QB position. He’s another JaMarcus Russell if he is drafted high as a QB.

  24. The QB position is the one spot that every team has drafted a bust at, at some point in the teams history. It is the hardest position to find a cant miss prospect at. What the entire league seems to not know, is that its not the mechanics, or the intangibles, its the mental make up that will decide whether a QB will be good in the league. And thats not an exact science.

  25. ‘How smart is the guy’- not very, just a quick search came upon these gems…

    “I don’t want nobody to feel sorry for me, because throughout this year didn’t nobody feel sorry for Auburn”

    “My passion for kids is superb”

    “When God be blessin’, the Devil be messin.’”

    wonderlic will be below 10.

  26. @jorevs300

    Have you been making enemies here? The whole thumbs thing is ridiculous, but it might keep some folks in line.

  27. He has atrocious footwork
    He has a terrible throwing motion
    He has no experience under center

    Yea, he is a brilliant NFL propsect

  28. Jake Locker is by far the biggest question mark, and it isn’t even close. Massive hype, but incredibly bad stats (and spare me the supporting cast argument, his RB (Polk) and WR (Kearse) are NFL caliber players).

  29. If the team that drafts Cam surround him with great weapons, like they normally do with pocket quarterbacks, then it should be interesting. Pocket quarterbacks that have been successful have always had good weapons around them to create that success. Pocket quarterbacks cannot rely on running, they are turtles, so of course they will work on strengthening everything else and learn to read defenses, master the playbook, etc. Brady and Manning are not running anywhere, so they have learned everything else to be better QB’s, and they had great teams around them when they won Superbowls. Running quarterbacks have a tendency to rely on their running to escape blitzes and find open targets, and rarely do you ever find them surrounded with great targets, except for Steve Young, and even then his running masked a really aging o-line. If anything, we have learned this season that a really good running QB that decides to learn the play book and read defenses can be a dangerous weapon, but the Eagles still have a bad offensive line, poor defense, and lastly some of the softest receivers. Bump them at the line and they are non factors. Teams know that now and that is why Vick started running again. All of this boils down to two things. Quarterbacks still need great defense, A good o-line, and good weapons on offense to win championships. Wonder when some of these NFL owners will realize that?

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