Just like last year’s draft could have been dubbed the “Tim Tebow Invitational”, the 2011 draft has similar buzz regarding Cam Newton. There is absolutely without a doubt, no question about it, that Cam Newton is an extraordinary athlete and a truly unique college football player, but his skills haven’t translated well into the NFL game in recent history.
It is no secret that Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks have struggled to be successful at the next level, and I have a feeling that Newton will have those same struggles. When you look at the history of the NFL, a quarterback with his skill-set has yet to win a Super Bowl championship. Yes, I do think that he can bring immediate excitement and playmaking ability to a team, but in the long run, he will have to develop his pocket presence and look to make plays with his arm rather than his legs. You can look at Vince Young as a recent example with the Tennessee Titans drafting him with the third overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. At that time, general manager Floyd Reese was quoted: ““Last night at 11:35, I was on my knees praying … he will rewrite the position. This guy physically is such a combination of arms and legs”. Well, Young hardly rewrote the quarterback position, and in fact, just 5 years later, he most likely won’t even be on the Titans roster.
In all fairness to Cam Newton, he has better throwing action than both Young and Tim Tebow and he is much more NFL ready than both prospects were in their respective draft years. As I mentioned when analyzing Blaine Gabbert, the college spread offense makes it very difficult to estimate how ones games with translate into the NFL, and with Newton it is even more difficult. He has only 292 passing attempts on his resume, and as one quarterback coach recently told me, only about 10% of throws in a spread offense are comparable to NFL style routes. That means that we are asking a club to play this young man almost 50 million dollars based off game analysis of just 30 throws.
Finally, as has been discussed over and over, Newton’s off the field problems are a major red flag to me. With football being the ultimate team sport, having a quarterback with a diva mentality, makes its very difficult for team cohesion. He obviously proved he can win at Auburn, but the NFL is very different, full of former college superstars. With his “icon and entertainer” comments, and his pre-draft media only workout, he will need to check his ego at the locker room door.