Monday, January 3, 2011

NFL Draft Prospect of the Week: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

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Cameron Newton is a special, special quarterback. At 6'6, 250 pounds he is also a large, large man. Fans have not seen a quarterback so dominate at the collegiate level since Vince Young and Mike Vick before him. No one is questioning his ability to dominate at the collegiate level, but rather whether his skills will translate to similar dominance in the NFL. The problem is that before Mike Vick's resurgence this year the dual threat quarterback has not proven effective at the NFL level. Vick flashed some potential in Atlanta, but his shortcomings as a passer held him back. Young faces a similar situation in Tennessee. His physical skills have won a few games, but the Titans seem better off with a passing quarterback albeit Kerry Collins at the helm. The NFL is a pass first league and in order to be successful at the Quarterback position, one needs to be able to make quick decisions and deliver the football accurately and on time. This  does not mean dual threat quarterbacks cannot succeed in the NFL, but instead that they must truly be a dual threat. If a quarterback can beat a team with his arm, and also have the ability to extend plays and threaten the defense with his legs, this is when he becomes a special. Mike Vick has done that this year, and I believe Newton can bring similar skills to a team allowing him to  become a special player in the NFL.

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First, let's look at some of the things Newton does exceptionally well.  Obviously he is a very effective runner. This past year alone he has rushed for over 1400 yards and 20 touchdowns. Newton is as big as a linebacker, but as shifty as a running back. His running style is similar to Vince Young, but  he is even faster. It will be interesting to see what he runs in the 40-yard dash, but he will be fast enough to get the job done in the NFL. This man simply dominated SEC defenses, which as much as I hate to say it, are the best in the country. Physically he is second to none. If he does not pan out at quarterback, you could always move him to Wide Receiver or even Defensive End.

Newton is also a winner. He has led Auburn to an undefeated season and led them to comeback victories in more than one case. He has proven he can win the close game, and he will not be affected by media attention. Facing much criticism from the media and fans due to accusations of wrong doing against him, he was unfazed and led his team to victory. Newton also displays strong leadership skills and has earned the respect of his coach and teammates.

Character concerns and passing ability are where questions are raised regarding Newton. He was accused of accepting money to go to Auburn, but he was not suspended. He was also accused of stealing a laptop while at Florida, but he has refused to talk about the event. Obviously these are character concerns that should be taken into account, but most people seem to think that he is a very good kid and has matured a lot in the past few years. Teams will look into this during the draft interview process and we can expect to learn more then.
Courtesy of Google Images

The biggest question regarding Newton is his passing ability. Will he be able to run a pro-style offense, make the necessary reads, and get the ball where it needs to go. I for one believe he can. He has a 67% completion percentage and throws the ball with good to great accuracy, putting his throws right on the money. He also has superb arm strength and can get the ball where he needs it to go. It is not the physical throwing ability, but rather the mental that causes concern to most. Will he be able to read defenses and make all the reads necessary for a pro-style offense, rather than the half-field reads utilized in the spread? There really is no way to know at this point, but I think the risk is worth it. Newton has all the physical ability and with proper coaching he could become a dominant player in the NFL. The main thing is patience. He should not be thrown into the fire immediately because he will turn to what he does best and that is run, but give him time and I think he can grow into an even better quarterback than Mike Vick is now and possibly one of the most feared players in the NFL.

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