To Falcons (and Georgia) fans who continue to debate the NFL merits of Cam Newton — who has been central to a verbal pie fight of late – here’s an update: You may get to watch him close up against the Falcons twice a year.
There are growing indications that the quarterback-desperate Carolina Panthers will take Newton with the first pick in the NFL draft in a few weeks. The Panthers apparently have met with the former Auburn quarterback and like him. CBSSports.com reported Panthers owner Jerry Richardson “still isn’t completely sold on Newton,” but will defer to his football staff on the decision.
Meanwhile, ESPN’s two draftniks, Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, but unveiled new mock drafts Wednesday and both made a change at the top, projecting Newton to go No. 1. Kiper originally had Carolina taking Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert and Kiper had Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus going first.
(UPDATE: Just realized I never posted Kiper’s and McShay’s comments about Newton. So here you go.)
There are immediate needs, and there is a decision that you believe will change the direction of your franchise for years to come. While I don’t believe Carolina is locked onto this pick — if you’re heard me at all lately, you’ll know I see this is one of the more unpredictable top 10’s I can ever remember — if they really see Newton as the transformative player that can be both a Pro Bowl quarterback and face of the franchise who draws a lot of buzz, they can make this pick. If talent alone was all they were concerned with, Newton would be an easy choice. But this pick also requires a belief in his development and maturity. Certainly, however, Newton’s potential is significant.
Newton is not the No. 1 player on my board — that would be Alabama DT Marcell Dareus — and defensive tackle is as much of a need as quarterback, but I’m hearing a lot of buzz from people in the league that Carolina is leaning toward a quarterback. I’m also hearing the Panthers favor Newton over Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert, and where there’s smoke there’s often fire. It’s not that Gabbert’s stock is falling, it’s just that Carolina apparently likes Newton’s incredible physical tools and immense upside.
Carolina is a dreadful team, and Newton likely wouldn’t have the same immediate impact there that he did at Auburn — certainly not to that degree. But he could make them more entertaining and competitive.
Falcons’ projections in mock drafts remain all over the board, which is probably the way general manager Thomas Dimitroff likes it. Kiper has the Falcons taking Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn, (with Georgia’s Justin Houston going to New England with the next pick). Kiper on the Falcons:
The Falcons are a solid team without a true glaring need, but a 4-3 defensive end with the ability to rush the passer and great awareness and discipline against the run can help them in 2011. That’s Clayborn in a nutshell. His coaches rave, as do players that have had to face him. He has good size, a reputation for relentlessness and the respect of his peers. Atlanta could look for a wideout to diversify an attack that went too often in one direction last year, but Clayborn is the better value here.
McShay has Clayborn being off the board at 24th to New Orleans and the Falcons taking Arizona defensive end Brooks Reed at 27th. McShay on Reed:
The Falcons are in the market for a pass rusher who can keep DE John Abraham fresh and be groomed as Abraham’s eventual replacement, and while Reed’s ideal fit is at 3-4 outside linebacker he has good size (6-foot-3, 263 pounds) and is a similar player to the Eagles’ Brandon Graham, who the Falcons had interest in last year. Also, history tells us Atlanta prefers to draft seniors and Reed is an experienced player coming off a productive senior season.
Both have Georgia’s A.J. Green going fourth overall to Cincinnati.
Back to Newton. After seeing him torment the Bulldogs and the rest of the SEC (and nation) this season, any thoughts on him going against the Falcons twice a year, should he end up with Carolina?
By Jeff Schultz