When selecting a quarterback in the NFL draft, you never know what you’re going to get. There will always be 'can’t miss' prospects coming out of the college ranks but while some have prospered, some have failed miserably.
JaMarcus Russell, Matt Leinart and Alex Smith
obviously fall into the 'failed miserably' category (OK, maybe Smith has a chance for redemption but his time is running short).
Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez and Matt Ryan have met and exceeded expectations thus far, and are what everyone will be looking for in this year’s draft.
Now, with a relatively mysterious group of signal callers set to make their way to the NFL next season (a special thanks to Stanford’s Andrew Luck), the evaluation process of the top QBs went from extremely difficult to nearly impossible.
On that note, no one’s future is more uncertain than that of Cam Newton.
Newton, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, has a load of question marks surrounding him, but is the hot name surging up draft boards. These questions don’t stem from the color of his skin, his background or the way he carries himself. Instead, these questions are –or at least should be – asked of every quarterback being considered with a top pick in the draft.
Newton started his ascent following a private workout in front of the media. The workout helped propel Newton in what many described as a ‘superhuman’ performance. Newton also announced that he’ll be participating in all drills at the NFL Combine, which starts later this week. The fact that Newton would make that decision – when many have declined in recent years, including Blaine Gabbert - is a reason for excitement and one more step towards declaring Newton as the real deal.
So, what are the real concerns about Newton? There are plenty to discuss but we’ll focus on three for the time being.
First and foremost are the ever so popular ‘character issues’.
Newton has no one to blame but himself for this (OK, maybe his dad, Cecil). Newton’s college recruitment immediately raises red flags because of father’s attempt to ‘sell’ his son to an SEC school. How much interaction did the younger Newton have in the process? We’ll probably never know but it will certainly be a hot topic brought up by NFL scouts and personnel during the interview process.
Second, can Newton process complex playbooks and defenses at the game’s highest level?
There will always be quarterbacks who thrive in college but have literally no shot at succeeding in the NFL. While Newton isn’t classified in this group, it’s uncertain whether he can be efficient against the best of the best coming after him every play.
Newton comes from a spread offense at Auburn, and players hailing from similar systems haven’t exactly panned out. Sam Bradford - who ran a version of the spread at Oklahoma - had a promising rookie campaign, and will likely help Newton due to the success he experienced this year.
Third, Newton is a physical specimen that we’ve never seen before in the league. Yes, there have been players with tremendous size, arm strength and running skills, but rarely has a player possessed all of those traits simultaneously.
Just for a second, think of Newton as the combination of Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger. Can it get much better than that? If there’s even a trace of Peyton Manning in Newton, greatness could be on the horizon.
Who gets their hands on Newton and what they attempt to do with him could be the biggest obstacle standing in Newton’s path to success. If teamed with an offensive system that focuses on his strengths and natural ability, he could begin to shine as early as next season. However, if Newton’s skill set is tampered with, it could lead to a devastating result that we’ve seen in the past.
The most admirable quality in Newton so far has been his refusal to deny a challenge, something that shouldn’t be taken lightly by prospective NFL teams. Newton has approached everything head on, and news of him participating fully at the combine in Indianapolis is the latest development in that trend.
Newton has been through a lot and has been ridiculed along the way, but as the Nietzsche saying goes: "that which does not kill us makes us stronger." Those words certainly hit home for Newton.
There’s no doubt Newton will have his fair share or supporters and doubters in the coming months but the man with the golden smile might have the last laugh when it’s all said and done.
Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at email@example.com
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