Commentary: Newton's taking hits, won't stop him from going high

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Various NFL analysts have been picking on Cam Newton pretty good in the run-up to next week's draft, and that's striking.

Before we start feeling sorry for the Heisman Trophy winner, though, and before the rationalizations point anew to some lingering league preference for white quarterbacks, consider this.

Newton played in a quirky, spread offense at Auburn, operating primarily out of the shotgun and running at the slightest provocation. These are not prime NFL standards, and yet Cam will be no worse than the second quarterback taken in the 2011 draft.

Newton started just one season of major college football and threw just 280 passes. That's a shockingly small sample size for NFL scouts obsessed with every little detail, but again Cam is a cinch to be one of the first five players drafted.

Hold tight, now, for here is where the red flags turn to emergency flares.


Newton has earned every bit of a continued reputation for ethical mushiness.

Urban Meyer didn't fight very hard to keep him at Florida after Cam was caught with a stolen laptop, which makes you wonder how many other hushed-up problems preceded that highly public offense.

Later came the shopping of Newton around the SEC, with an NCAA investigation finding that his father asked for money from Mississippi State and the whole world guessing that he probably did the same at Auburn.

Throw in Newton's quote in Sports Illustrated that he sees himself "not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon" and there are enough leadership questions here to knock some other player into the fourth round.

Still and all, Cam is the consensus choice to go No. 1 overall to Carolina, a franchise that desperately needs a massive infusion of offense and box-office boom.

That's how special this quarterback is, how transformational his skills, how dominating his physical rebuttals to any and all criticism.

Cam Newton is simply so good that nobody can say enough bad about him to matter.

He will go quickly in the draft's first round Thursday and any GM who passes on him had better know how to duck. That's the one note of certainty in all of this.


That's the salve for anyone who's sore over Cam's pithy pre-draft evaluations, including the Pro Football Weekly assessment that Newton "has an enormous ego with a sense of entitlement that continually invites trouble and makes him believe he is above the law." All that, says the magazine, and a "fake smile" to boot.

OK, but remember Tim Tebow, the college game's ultimate golden boy.

He survived four seasons of intense media scrutiny at Florida without a dent in his reputation for strong character and genuine goodwill, which made him a safe choice for NFL teams. What it didn't make him was a spectacular choice, or else Tebow would have gone higher than the 25th overall pick in last year's draft.

Tom Brady, a two-time Super Bowl MVP, was selected behind the following quarterbacks in the 2000 draft: Chad Pennington, Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redman, Tee Martin, Marc Bulger and Spergon Wynn. Insert your own name here. It won't look any sillier.

And how about Dan Marino? He was the sixth quarterback taken in 1983, and nearly slipped into the second round.

Whispers, always whispers, are what dog every quarterback this time of year, and that goes double when a team is going to spend a first-round pick on one.

Newton is getting the full treatment from NFL teams on questions of football IQ and dependability, but clearly some team with a gaping void at quarterback will snap him up Thursday, and at the earliest convenience, no matter what gets scribbled on all those clipboards.

On draft day the league is looking, as it always does, for the most obvious talent, no matter the preamble to each rookie pro's story, and no matter how many times the haunting sagas of Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell are retold.


Cam Newton is that rare athlete whose size and strength and charisma are almost too expansive to fit into the conventional NFL playbook and might even require a whole new printing.

Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett, we've seen all these guys before.

Dave George writes for The Palm Beach Post. E-mail: dave(underscore)george(at)

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