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The Jury’s Out On Newton, But We Don’t See How A Team Could Pass On Him

The experts are all over the board when it comes to former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.  Some see him as the next great quarterback in the NFL.  Others see him as a prima donna.  Some see him as anew type of signal-caller for the pro game.  Others see him as nothing more than a high-risk project.

We at see him as being too athletically gifted for a team to pass on him.

Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News — one of our favorite SEC writers, by the way — does a fine job of showing you the wide range of opinions on Newton in his latest column.  While pundits, talking heads, ex-coaches and off-the-record personnel men are all over the board, we feel Newton will be the top pick in the draft for one reason — the Carolina Panthers can’t afford to pass on him.

In April of 2006, the Houston Texans passed on hometown hero Vince Young and Heisman-winner Reggie Bush to select NC State defensive end Mario Williams.  That decision was ridiculed.  Texans GM Charley Casserly was roasted.  The local fans wanted Young.  Many in the media thought Bush would be the next Gayle Sayers. 

Williams?  Well, he was a good defensive end but how could Houston pass on Young and Bush?

Casserly was headed out the door at the time of the draft.  That kind of knowledge can be quite freeing.  Casserly knew he wouldn’t be around to deal with the fallout of not picking the two favorites… so he could focus on making the best pick.  Even though that pick would be met with catcalls.  As it’s turned out, Casserly did make the right pick in Williams.  At least to this point in the three players’ careers.

But Carolina GM Marty Hurney isn’t stepping aside at year’s end.  And while he’s had some success overall, he doesn’t have the track record of a Bill Belichick or Bill Polian to buttress a risky decision.

Last year he selected quarterback Jimmy Clausen who the Panthers and their fanbase have apparently already lost faith in.  And there’s a reason Carolina is picking first this year — they were the worst team in football a year ago.

For that reason, Hurney is under more pressure now than Casserly was five years ago when he chose to buck conventional wisdom.  Hurney needs a home run.  Newton looks like he could be that home run.

Newton didn’t throw many passes or start many games in college, but he did excel in the toughest league in America and led his team to the national crown.  The upside — to use a word popular among NFL personnel types — is through the roof when it comes to the former Auburn star.

If Carolina feels that Newton’s head is screwed on straight, we don’t see how they can risk passing on him.  That doesn’t mean we view Newton as a sure thing.  We don’t.  But we do know that any GM who lets Cecil’s boy slide past him, is taking a pretty big risk.

No one wants to be the guy who takes Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan.  And that includes Carolina’s general manager.

When first pick is called out tonight, we believe Newton will be the man walking to the podium.  The Panthers can’t afford to pass on Newton’s upside.  They can’t afford to risk him starring for someone else for a decade to come.


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