Position Ranking: #4
Strengths: Has an amazing combination of height and athleticism for the position. Very good arm strength and can make the deep out, and deep corner throw. A high release point in his upper body mechanics allows him to maintain good spin on his layered passing; throws a tight ball short, intermediate, and deep. Flashes good accuracy between the numbers on intermediate routes from the pocket. Can make accurate throws off balance and on the move. A dangerous threat to run, has great buildup speed and can glide when he breaks towards the sideline. Impressive balance in space when transitioning on the run for his 6’6 frame. Speed is deceptive and can be misjudged; one missed assignment and Newton goes the distance.
Needs Improvement: Pocket instincts are below adequate. Doesn’t feel the backside defender or show an awareness to the timing of the defensive rush. Lower body mechanics are very raw, won’t stride into most of his throws, keeps feet close together and whips his throws with his shoulder. Accuracy is off/on especially deep when throwing outside the numbers due to poor lower body mechanics. Wasn’t asked to go through coverage reads or a full progressions in a spread option offense at Auburn.
Needs to see an open receiver and has very little anticipation. Field vision is not wide angle despite size and doesn’t seem to see the entire field clearly. Will wait for his primary target to open up and rarely turns his head from left to right.
Most of his accurate throws were a result of wide open coverage windows and plenty of time in the pocket. Can be tackled by much smaller defenders as Newton is not a physical runner and seems to shy away from square contact in space. No more than a handful of snaps were taken from under center in his career and wasn’t asked to settle his feet, look over the coverage, and find an open receiver. Only started 13 games in the NCAA. Legal and academic troubles forced him to transfer from the University of Florida. His father was involved with a pay-for-play agreement for Newton’s services.
Bottom Line: There is no denying Cam Newton’s immense physical talents. He was the best player in college football this past season and has both the Heisman Trophy and a national championship to show for it. The concerns that teams will have leading up to the draft are obvious on some levels (spread option system, only one full year of experience) but other concerns will show up more clearly during progressive game study. My greatest concern about Newton isn’t the system, or even his character concerns, but his lack of instincts/awareness in the pocket and his pre-snap recognition or rather, his lack of pre-snap recognition. Newton was never asked to read coverage at Auburn, he simply ran the play. Since Newton wasn’t asked to make pre-snap adjustments or even post-snap adjustments in his zone read offense, it makes the mental transition less clear in evaluating him.
Without question Cam has the physical ability be successful and with NFL coaching he’ll be able to improve his lower body mechanics. But with only one full year of experience there is no telling how Newton would perform against teams with a season’s worth of film at their availability and maintain his success at the college level. Because of this I feel that Newton isn’t the prospect Vince Young or Tim Tebow were- two somewhat similar players- as they had a minimum of two full years of experience.
Overall, when evaluating quarterbacks, I’m less concerned with their athletic ability and more concerned with how well they understand coverage, pre and post-snap, as well as their ability to make intuitive and timely throws inside the pocket. These characteristics are not strengths that Newton currently possesses, so my ranking will likely be less high for him than many others. I grade him as a late second round, early third round pick but project him to go sooner.
Draft Projection: Mid 1st to early 2nd round.