April 3, 2011
Cameron Newton has been the most dynamic, awe-inspiring athlete in the nation during the 2010 college football season. Under Newton, the Auburn Tigers defeated every team that they faced and won the BCS championship handily despite turmoil throughout the year. The quarterbacks that are being compared to Newton now have been grossly inferior to him for most of the season, but now that Andrew Luck, the only quarterback that was comparable to or possibly more NFL ready than Newton, has removed his name from the NFL draftboard, quarterbacks like Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker are suddenly deemed his equal.
Other than Luck, Newton does not have any worthy contemporaries in college football. He dominated his competition in every facet of the game. Newton led the nation in passer efficiency rating with a historically high average 193.0 until the last game of the season, which he played with an injury. He still finished second in the nation in that category with a passer rating of 182.05. He led the nation in touchdown percentage with 10.71, total touchdowns scoring 50, and yards per attempt with 10.19, while playing against the best defenses in the country, SEC defenses. Newton also led Auburn to a perfect season facing these defenses which are mostly comprised of future National Football Association players. He was a star among stars, doing whatever was necessary to defeat those he faced. Whether it be blowing past lineman and over linebackers for scores, or hitting receivers in stride for touchdown passes, in college, Newton always seemed to make the right play.
Now, with Luck returning to school for his senior season, he stands head and shoulders above his competition, but critics are second-guessing him constantly. His performance at the NFL combine was not by any means perfect, but it did not reveal any new information for or against him, or anything that makes his closest competitors near his equal. Cam Newton wowed coaches and scouts with his physical ability. He tied for third with Jake Locker in the 40 yard dash posting a time of 4.59, only .08 seconds off of the overall leader’s time. And he tied for 3rd in the vertical jump with a showing of 35 inches. In the broad jump which measures a quarterback’s overall explosiveness, he recorded a 10’6″, which puts his explosion on par with quarterbacks like Michael Vick. What this says is that Cam Newton is one of the most physically gifted quarterbacks that the NFL will ever see, which scouts already knew. He completed almost every deep throw that he made and was inconsistent on the quicker timing routes. The issue with Newton on the timing routes was undisciplined footwork, which every quarterback that runs the spread exclusively has going into the NFL. In addition to that, he was throwing the football to receivers that he did not know, so there was no congruency between him and the receivers. Surprisingly, the best quarterbacks in the NFL are now using the spread in record numbers. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger all used the spread offense in shotgun formation between 60-75% last season. The pro-style offense which takes place under center that Newton will be switching to may be obsolete soon. The combine did not shed any new light on the strengths and weaknesses of Newton, so there should be no change in his status from it. Blaine Gabbert did have better scores on his Wonderlic test, and completed more of the shorter passes, however he is incapable of making the intermediate passes that NFL quarterbacks have to make consistently to be effective. Newton has proven in real game situations that he can make every throw regularly, so the combine was just an outlier.
He outplayed Blaine Gabbert, the quarterback that is now supposed to be taken ahead of him in every way during the actual college football season. Statistically, Newton was better in 2010 than Gabbert in the last two years. He completed 66.07% of his passes to 63.37% for Gabbert. Newton had 30 passing touchdowns to Gabbert’s 16 in 2010. Gabbert only had 48 total touchdowns in 2009 and 2010 to Newton’s 50 in 2010. More so, Gabbert did not compete against the same level of competition game to game that Cam Newton did or face the same type of adversity that he did. Newton’s father was alleged to have asked different schools upward of $80,000 for Cam to attend their schools. If convicted of any wrongdoing, Newton would have been declared ineligible, forfeited his season, and negated any chance at winning the Heisman and the National championship. He performed well in every game against the most daunting defenses in the country while facing harsh charges from the NCAA. Gabbert only had 4 games against ranked opponents and lost 3 of those games. Jake Locker should not even be mentioned in the same breath as these two quarterbacks, because though physically gifted, he only completed 55.42% of his passes in a weak Pac-10 conference. If he cannot complete 60% of his passes in college, then he has no chance in the pros as a quarterback.
Cam Newton has assembled a better body of work in one season than many quarterbacks have had in their entire career. He led the Auburn Tigers to a perfect 14-0 season that culminated in a National Championship, while being scrutinized by the media for the allegations made that his father shopped his services for improper benefits. Despite seemingly looming ineligibility, he played uncanny football, scrambling, maneuvering, passing, and rushing his way to college football immortality. Cam Newton should be the first quarterback taken in the NFL draft, and if the NFL squad with the first overall pick needs a strong-armed, strong-willed, leader, then he should be the first player taken, too.