Many will jump to compare the play of Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas to NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Cam Newton, but are they really so similar?
At first glance, the two quarterbacks do seem very similar. Both are built like tight ends and stand out from the crowd as 6'5"-or-taller, well-built quarterbacks. It's easy to make the visual comparison that these two players do look alike on the football field due to their throwing motions, running style and physical dominance.
Newton made his mark at Auburn, and later with the Carolina Panthers, as a run-pass threat who was big enough to roll over tacklers and strong enough to thread the ball downfield. Similarly, Thomas is even bigger, stronger and may have a better short-to-intermediate arm.
At surface level, yes, Newton and Thomas play a lot alike, but digging down deeper, we've found the comparisons end at face value.
The first thing you notice about Thomas is how quick his throwing motion is. He snaps the ball off his hand with a strong, over-the-top follow-through reminiscent of a Michael Vick pass. You can see in the image above, Thomas has huge hands that allow him to control the ball without keeping two hands on the football until he's ready to release.
Newton's mechanics were rusty when he left Auburn. As a one-year starter at the FBS level, Newton needed work. Watching him in Carolina, though, we see a much cleaner delivery. What aided Newton greatly, and will moving forward, is his overall athleticism.
He's able to roll out left or right and throw on the move without looking awkward. Thomas is a little more stiff in his movements, but his footwork and delivery are ahead of where we saw Newton at Auburn. Comparing him to the NFL-level Newton, Thomas has some catching up to do.
Arm Strength and Accuracy
There is a lot to like here with both quarterbacks.
Newton has a cannon of an arm, but even during his pro-day performance after leaving Auburn, it was easy to question his outside accuracy. This improved dramatically during his rookie season, but based on pre-draft comparisons, Thomas is ahead of where Newton was as a collegiate quarterback.
Thomas has a big, strong arm, but he's also very aware of ball placement. What he doesn't have is Newton's deep-ball ability. One thing Cam does exceptionally well is air it out and let his receivers run under the ball for the catch.
Thomas may have better short-to-intermediate accuracy, but Newton's downfield ability makes this one too close to call.
An area where Thomas is farther ahead than Newton was in college is field vision. Newton did a great job executing the Auburn offense, but they didn't ask him to make many reads downfield. Even now in Carolina, at least in his rookie season, we saw Newton running a simplified read offense.
Thomas isn't Joe Montana, but he's ahead of Newton in recognizing the defense and making a quick read to change the play or change his target. Thomas is more accustomed to making NFL-style reads, and while neither quarterback ran a college system that asked him to make multiple reads post-snap, Thomas will enter the NFL with more experience here.
No matter what anyone tells you, Logan Thomas does not run as fast as Cam Newton. You can put it on tape, watch them run side by side—it doesn't matter. Newton is much more elusive and a much more effective runner in space. Thomas is strong and can pick up tough yards, but he won't elude defenders like Newton does.
Thomas isn't afraid to lower his shoulder and get physical, but that's something teams will worry about in the NFL. Even at 260 pounds, NFL head coaches don't want their quarterbacks lowering their throwing shoulder to take on tacklers. It's fun to see on highlights, but this is an area where Newton's elusive, open-field moves better translate to the NFL.
Who is the better NFL prospect?
So much of what makes Cam Newton great, and what made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, cannot be broken down on film. He's an electric runner with a big arm and a strong frame—that much we can document.
What the Panthers saw was a playmaker they could develop into a top-flight quarterback, and they have. Teams who look at Logan Thomas will see the same traits. He's big, strong, elusive and has the raw potential to become great if coached up properly.
While Thomas is my No. 1 overall quarterback in this year's class, he's no Cam Newton—at least not yet.