Amidst all the uncertainty in the NFL the only guarantee was that the NFL Draft would commence as scheduled. A record 25 draft prospects were invited to Radio City Music Hall to realize their dream of walking across the stage and shaking the hand of Commissioner Roger Goodell at the podium (an act that player’s union director DeMaurice Smith tried to stop by advising the players not to appear). The other major storyline was where Auburn star Cam Newton would be picked in the draft. Projected by many to be the first pick in the draft, Newton was selected #1 overall by the Carolina Panthers. A federal judge recently ruled against the lockout, but the NFL owners just won an appeal to reinstitute it effectively stopping all football activity.
Apparently the pay-for-play scandal involving his father and the questions about his arm accuracy did not hurt Cam Newton’s draft stock. Carolina, who already has a young quarterback in Jimmy Clausen on the roster, felt Newton was too good to pass on. Buffalo would have most likely grabbed him with the #3 pick, but settled on defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to shore up the NFL’s worst run defense last year. Newton joins a select list of players who have won a National title at college, won the Heisman trophy and was the first pick overall in the NFL draft. The question now is how will Newton adjust to the NFL playbook? Will he be Michael Vick or JaMarcus Russell?
Newton was not regarded as the best quarterback in the draft (that honor belongs to the #10 pick Blaine Gabbert) he will have a lot to prove as he adjusts to the NFL game. The quarterback with “the best arm in the draft” according to ESPN is Ryan Mallett, who dropped all the way to the 3rd round. Mallett was taken by the New England Patriots, who ironically was the opponent of the Carolina Panthers the last time the Panthers made the Super Bowl. While Mallett’s questionable character issues caused him to drop in the draft, he did land on a team known for developing young quarterbacks. Backing up future Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady is not a bad gig either.
Who does Newton have to bring him along? The aforementioned Clausen, criticized last year for his spotty play, will definitely be trying to prove he can be a consistent starting quarterback in the NFL. This is a classic case of Carolina not wanting to pass on a player as talented as Newton for fear he would go elsewhere and become a star. There are some who question his character and feel Newton is phony. I believe in order to take this franchise back to where they were in 2004, Newton has to be willing to leave his ego at the door and work hard to learn how to play in the NFL. No matter what happens in the quarterback battle with Clausen, he has to be a team first player and he will be. The NFL playbook is completely different than the offense Newton ran at Auburn which basically took advantage of his running ability. If he can be humble and put in the work needed to enhance his throwing ability, he will eventually be a franchise quarterback for the Carolina Panthers.