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 no question that he is an extraordinary athlete and a truly unique college football player, but his skills haven’t translated well into the NFL 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.
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.
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 five 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 one’s games will 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 percent 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 based off game analysis of just 30 throws.
Finally, as has been discussed over and over, Newton’s off the field problems are major red flags to me. With football being the ultimate team sport, having a quarterback with a diva mentality makes it 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 predraft media only workout, he will need to check his ego at the locker room door.
In continuing our look at my top 50 prospects for the 2011 draft, here are the players ranked in the top 31 through 40. This portion of the draft is where the gamesmanship comes into play.
With the new format, teams can now regroup after the first round as they have all night to adjust their boards and start scheming to trade up or back to select their desired player.
I am sure the first name that jumps off this list is Da’Quan Bowers as he slips all the way out of the first round to 34th overall. When I completed my very first mock draft (prior to the NFL Scouting Combine), I had Bowers being selected second overall to Denver, but with all the recent medical concerns, he falls down to 34.
Teams have told me — and media outlets have reported — that what once was thought to be a simple meniscus surgery was actually a microfracture surgery and his shelf life could be as short as three years. I can see Bowers facing a similar draft slide as Sergio Kindle did last year, with his own knee concerns dropping his stock to 43rd overall.
You will also notice that Ryan Mallett can be found at 38. While I do think that he has an NFL ready arm, his heavy feet in the pocket, and overall attitude make me much more comfortable slotting him in the second round rather than the first.
I would be very concerned how he would handle the pressure from the media and the fans if he were selected as a first round quarterback brought in to save the franchise.
In addition to Bowers, you will also find an influx of defensive lineman and pass rushers within this group. I have Justin Houston nine spots ahead of Akeem Ayers and include defensive tackles, Marvin Austin and Stephen Paea — all of whom, with maybe the exception of Paea, could be first round selections.