Auburn Tigers quarterback Cam Newton remains under intense scrutiny this week as the NCAA attempts to determine whether or not Newton, or someone close to him, attempted to procure money during the recruitment process for Newton.
Newton transferred over to Auburn from Blinn Junior College in Texas. Prior to that, he attended University of Florida, but accumulated just 21 rushing attempts and 12 passes in two years there. According to breaking reports, Newton ran into trouble even during those two years—he stands accused by anonymous sources of multiple instances of academic cheating.
Newton insists he has done nothing wrong, but continues to find the net tightening around him even as he and the Tigers inch ever closer to a BCS Championship appearance.
If Newton eventually meets with stringent NCAA discipline, he has more options than many players in his situation.
Newton graduated high school in 2007, meaning that he is eligible for the NFL Draft already. After a season of on-field excellence and off-field turmoil, Newton could opt to walk right around any NCAA sanctions and head for the potential riches of the NFL Draft.
There are pros and cons to that notion.
Obviously, if suspended, Newton would lose an opportunity to further boost his Draft stock, and therefore would have no especially good reason not to head for the NFL. Auburn likely would not welcome Newton back, especially if the academic allegations that remain relatively fresh turn out to be true.
From that standpoint, Newton would do well to forgo any further chances to play at the college level and try his luck with the League.
On the other hand, Newton has a lot of competition in the 2011 Draft. Quarterbacks Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett are surefire first or early second-round picks, as will be Stanford's Andrew Luck if he elects to come out. Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State has performed well enough this year to cause at least some speculation that he, too, will opt for the draft next season.
On top of the stiff collection of talent against whom he would be compared, Newton also would need to consider the NFL's rather high sensitivity to character issues. Teams have long shied away from certain obviously erratic players, but the Goodell era has ushered in serious reservations about drafting players who demonstrate poor character or have murky backgrounds, since any slip-up can leave an NFL star suspended (unless, of course, that star wears No. 4; Newton wears No. 2 so he would be done for).
Should Newton be suspended and feel the need to play football next season, he could head for Canada or the UFL. Neither of those are especially appealing options, though.
Ultimately, he would likely go in the second round or so, and that is good enough to justify Newton making himself available to the NFL.