Cam Newton and the 2011 NFL Draft: The Best Teams and Situations for Him
Let's face it; dual-threat QBs haven't won many—or some say ANY—Super Bowls. As Cam Newton is a dual-threat QB, why should any NFL team draft him, especially in the first round, unless he is willing to switch positions (the guy would DOMINATE as a TE)?
Simple. While it is impossible to predict the future success of any NFL player (for instance, I was certain that Matt Leinart was a can't-miss NFL QB...not a franchise player but a very consistent performer, and was similarly absolutely certain that Aaron Rodgers would be pedestrian) there is ample reason to believe that in the right situation, Newton would be a champion for an NFL team just as he was for Auburn and for Blinn Junior College. Even a person predisposed against dual-threat QBs cannot ignore a 6'6", 250-lb guy who accounts for 4,300 yards and 51 TDs against an SEC schedule.
The issue is that dual-threat QBs rarely land into good situations. The best, strongest organizations—the ones capable of building the best supporting casts—prefer the drop-back/pro-style QBs, so dual-threat QBs often wind up going to questionable franchises who rarely succeed no matter the QB.
With that in mind, it is probably good that questions about Newton's character, intelligence and knowledge exist, because it makes it far less likely that a chronically bad franchise looking for a guy to carry them to respectability right away will take him near the top of the first round. It's much more likely that a good, strong organization hoping to develop him down the line will take him near the middle or bottom of the first round (as did Green Bay with the fellow that I was certain would fail in Rodgers), or perhaps even in the second round.
Where Is The Best Landing Spot For Cam Newton?
The Best Teams for Newton
1. The Minnesota Vikings
Despite problems securing a new stadium that may force the Vikings to go to Los Angeles, it is a good situation for Newton. They have a good organization that has generally made prudent moves in the draft and free agency to build a good team, and have a respected coaching staff in place that includes Leslie Frazier and Mike Singletary (who would be more than willing and able to get in Newton's face should he experience some of the same work ethic/off-the-field drama issues that afflicted Michael Vick, Kordell Stewart and Vince Young).
They have very good young receivers, a good OL and a strong running game with Toby Gerhart and Adrian Peterson, and no long-term solution at QB. They could sign a veteran to play right away (Donovan McNabb?) and take Newton to mold as his replacement in 2-3 years.
2. The San Francisco 49ers
Basically the same as the Vikings, except that having Jim Harbaugh to develop Newton couldn't be more ideal. (Folks who remember Harbaugh's playing days should recall that Harbaugh was a tough customer who was more than willing to scramble when he had the chance.) A decent organization, a good young team in place, no long-term answer at QB (Alex Smith has already gotten two good coaches fired)...sign a veteran for a couple of years (again, Donovan McNabb?) and let a guy who is both a great QB coach and is innovative enough to put in an offense that will utilize his skills.
Where Is The Worst Spot For Cam Newton?
Harbaugh could do for Newton and the 49ers what another Stanford product by the name of Bill Walsh did for Joe Montana, who lest we forget was a third-round pick and a scrambler who dropped in the draft in part because of not playing in a pro-style offense.
3. The Philadelphia Eagles
Just call Cam Newton "Donovan McNabb 2.0." The Eagles now finally have the every-down tailback and the explosive wide receivers that McNabb never had until it was too late (and for that matter neither did Randall Cunningham). They do need to rebuild their OL and their defense.
That is fine; re-sign Michael Vick and let him take a beating for the next three years, and replace him with a dual-threat QB whose height and size make him a better fit for the NFL game. Further, Reid erred by playing McNabb too soon and by not altering his pass-happy West Coast offense to fit McNabb's skills, a mistake that he won't replicate with Newton.
4. The New England Patriots
Think about it: Tom Brady turns 34 this year, and is now getting injury prone. His current contract, which runs through 2014 (three NFL seasons), will be his last. The Patriots seem to have no succession plan (Brady's backup is undrafted free agent Brian Hoyer, who just completed his second season).
While of course the Patriots would like to add a defensive player to help them get back to the Super Bowl, they are in a similar situation that Green Bay was in six years ago, knowing that as long as they have a talented team led by Brady, they won't have another opportunity to draft a QB that is nearly so talented and will have to start thinking about the future. Bill Belichick will keep Newton in line, and they have the talented, creative offensive coaches that it takes to teach Newton and to design a scheme around him. And who better for Newton to learn from than Tom Brady?
5. The Miami Dolphins
The only reason why they are not higher on this list is because the organization was enamored with Vince Young when he was coming out of college, and were so BEFORE the national title game. As a result, Miami is the place where Young is most likely to wind up. If he doesn't...Miami knows that Chad Henne (19 INTs and took 30 sacks despite a very good OL and WR corps) isn't the guy. The Dolphins would need a veteran QB to keep the seat warm a couple of years, but the team who brought the Wildcat to the NFL would be an excellent spot for the ultimate Wildcat QB. As a matter of fact, the Dolphins should try to land Newton in the draft first, and only sign Vince Young if they can't.
6. The Carolina Panthers
Obviously, this is if Newton slips out of the first round, which is likely. The Panthers' new coach is a defense guy, and those guys tend to like a running QB to complement a ball-control strategy. Also, if the Panthers were that sold on what they saw from last year's second-round pick QB Jimmy Clausen, they wouldn't have been so interested in drafting Andrew Luck.
Carolina has a good OL, good WRs and a great running game...all they need is a pass rush and a QB. Nick Fairley would provide the former in the first round. Wouldn't it be absolutely insane were Newton to provide the latter in the second? That would make up for the sting of dropping out of the first round!
7. The Washington Redskins
There have been a lot of rumors to this effect going around, but I am not convinced that the Redskins are as enamored with Newton as everyone claims. Also, No. 8 in the draft is far too high for Newton even if he performs great at the combine, individual workouts, Wonderlic etc. so they would have to trade down. Still, there is not a better QB coach in the NFL than Mike Shanahan, and Shanahan's system has been perfect for similar running/scrambling QBs like John Elway and Jay Cutler.
The rift between Donovan McNabb and Mike (and Kyle) Shanahan cannot be repaired, and the Redskins do have Rex Grossman to keep the seat warm for a couple of years while the franchise goes out and gets WRs and OLs who can play.
8. The Cleveland Browns
This organization needs a complete and total overhaul, but sitting Newton for three years would accomplish that. Mike Holmgren built a Super Bowl champion in Green Bay and took Seattle to the Super Bowl, so he can do the same with Cleveland.
Yes, the Browns did draft Colt McCoy last year, but do not regard McCoy as having the ability to be an NFL starter. They can, however, let McCoy keep the seat warm for 2-3 years until Newton is ready and has a competitive team around him. If McCoy actually does pan out, then you trade Newton for picks (a practice that Holmgren perfected while at Green Bay).
Again, Newton should not be taken where Cleveland currently drafts, and the Browns do have other needs. But if Cleveland trades down, and particularly if Newton falls to them in the second round, they absolutely have to pull the trigger on a QB with "franchise" raw talent.
9. The Houston Texans
There are some rumblings about bringing Vince Young to town as a backup, which similar to the Miami Dolphins would ruin this idea. But at some point, the Texans have to face facts: Matt Schaub seems to be the guy that is just good enough to get you beat. He puts up big numbers year after year, but doesn't win the key games that the Texans need to get into the playoffs.
Schaub will be 30 this season, has four years of starting under his belt, so he isn't going to get any better. He should get a last shot to get the team into the playoffs next season, and if that doesn't happen, then well his contract runs out in 2013.
They should not take Newton in the first round, as they need help on defense (CB and DT), but if he is available in the second round, they shouldn't pass him up. Houston runs the Shanahan system that is ideal for scramblers, and they have outstanding WRs, RBs and TEs as well as a good OL.
Organizations I Hope Newton Avoids
The Oakland Raiders: No protection, no WRs, Al Davis.
The Buffalo Bills: A small market (no Al Davis but otherwise see above).
The Cincinnati Bengals: Sure, they have good WRs, a decent OL and running game and a pretty good coach, but Mike Brown is still running the team.
The Arizona Cardinals: Basically the Bengals with Bill Bidwill being Mike Brown.
The Jacksonville Jaguars: (see the Bills) Jacksonville fans would never forgive taking Newton after passing on Tim Tebow in order to take some unknown DT from Cal last year.
The Tennessee Titans: Their "Jeff Fisher problem" will finally be over by the middle of next season (his staff is bleeding assistants to lateral moves because they know what is coming), and my guess is that Nick Saban—who was once an assistant for the franchise when they were in Houston—would make a perfect replacement.
While Saban is a defense guy who would love a QB that had an 182 rating in college—and one that he saw firsthand this season in leading one of the greatest road comebacks in college football history—this is just a bad idea, even if Newton is available in the second round as I expect him to be.
It is true that lots of people have speculated that the Titans will be interested in Newton as they have something of a "tradition" in playing similar QBs (Warren Moon, Steve McNair, Vince Young). But the fact is that the Titans have an owner who likes to try to win on the cheap—especially on offense—and the same Nashville fans who had a "detached" relationship with Steve McNair and hated Vince Young because they REALLY wanted hometown heroes Peyton Manning and Jay Cutler instead are already mounting an "anybody but Cam!" movement, and the local media is fanning the flames (several pre-emptive strikes against Newton have already been penned by the Nashville newspapers, as well as by Nashville-based ESPN AFC South writer Paul Kuharsky). This is probably the worst possible situation for Newton.
If you are a fan of Cam Newton and/or the NFL, hope that he lands in one of the former situations and not one of the latter ones.
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