Cam Newton: Will the Panthers' Star Signal-Caller Be a Top-3 QB in 2012?

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Cam Newton: Will the Panthers' Star Signal-Caller Be a Top-3 QB in 2012?
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

As the 2012 NFL regular season approaches, there appears to be plenty of hype surrounding former Heisman-winner Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.

Despite being on a 10-loss team in 2011, the former No. 1 pick still threw for 4051 yards and 21 touchdowns.

However, has Newton already emerged as one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL?

According to former NFL scout and current NFL Network correspondent Daniel Jeremiah, one executive told him Newton is a top-three quarterback: "Spoke with one AFC executive that would already rank Cam Newton as the NFL's 3rd best QB."

With all due respect to this AFC executive, Cam Newton is not an elite quarterback right now and he will not be one of the game's three best quarterbacks during the 2012 season.

Has Newton shown the potential to be an elite quarterback in the NFL? Newton displayed his ability to be effective as both a runner and passer in his first full season in the league. As Jeremiah said on his Twitter account, Newton could transform the quarterback position for years to come.

However, the key word is could. Newton could emerge as one of the game's elite quarterbacks, but he will need more time to improve his game as a passer along with his consistency on a weekly basis.

It isn't a fluke that Newton's best statistical performances came when the Panthers lost. He passed for 300 yards or more in a game three times, with the end result ending in close losses.

Newton was impressive without question in his rookie year, but any quarterback can make himself look better when throwing for tons of yards while his team is trailing late in the fourth quarter.

In Carolina, Newton was not expected to carry the offense unless the team was facing a deficit late in games. The combination of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in the backfield limited Newton's pass attempts per game.

With the addition of former Chargers running back Mike Tolbert this offseason, Ron Rivera is still committed to orchestrating a run-first offense. Newton will obviously have more reins with the offense, but it will be crucial that Newton is a more effective passer on a weekly basis (only had a completion rate of 70 percent or higher three times last season).

There is no reason that Newton's rookie statistics suggest he is already better than the 29 other starting quarterbacks in football. In fact, there is still another important aspect that Newton needs to accomplish in the NFL.

In most cases, a quarterback is judged by his success in the playoffs and ultimately the amount of championships that he has earned over a course of his career.

Let the debate continue on as to whether or not the right way to measure the top quarterbacks is based on their amount of championships. The game's top quarterbacks rise up to the occasion and play their best football when it matters most.

There is no doubt that Cam Newton was a winner in college, though the road to winning a Super Bowl is much more difficult. How can Newton be considered elite when his team finished with a losing record last season?

These expectations seem very high for a rookie, but so does the idea that Newton is a top-three quarterback.

When discussing the elite quarterbacks in football, the following six quarterbacks are normally in consideration: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning (if healthy), Ben Roethlisberger.

What do all of these quarterbacks have in common? They have won at least one championship in addition to their success during the regular season.

Newton cannot be compared to these quarterbacks right now, and it may take a few seasons before he can even be considered in the conversation.

Eli Manning did not earn the respect he deserves until he won a second championship. Why should Newton be given a pass?

Clearly, there is excitement around the league for a quarterback who could change how the position is played over these few years. Newton has warranted the praise after showing his potential in his first season with a young Panthers team that will make significant improvements in 2012.

For now, it is best to put the 'Newton is elite" talk to rest. The term "elite" is used too much nowadays.

Hopefully, Newton can earn the recognition sooner rather than later if he wins a championship as an NFL quarterback.

 

Matt Miselis is an NFL Featured Columnist for BleacherReport. He has been featured by ESPN.com and CBS Sports, while also making appearances on ESPN Radio. Follow him on twitter: @MattMiselisNFL

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