Most draft analysts seem to have Cameron Newton ranked as the second best quarterback prospect in the nation behind Missouri's Blaine Gabbert. While they usually rank Gabbert higher, the majority of them have Newton being the first quarterback taken off of the board.
This is due to Newton's recent exposure after Auburn's national title and his slew of P.R. moves over the past few weeks. Let's assume that Newton is going to be the first quarterback taken, which team takes him?
Newton won't drop below eighth, unless he absolutely destroys his draft stock over the next couple of months. That leaves his potential teams as the Panthers, Broncos, Bills, Bengals, Cardinals, Browns, 49ers or Titans.
Of those eight teams, the Panthers (won't risk No. 1 pick), Broncos (bigger needs), Bengals (probably keeping Carson Palmer) and Browns (Colt McCoy) probably won't be drafting Newton.
So of the remaining four, which would best fit Newton? Which gives him the best set of tools to succeed?
A solid defense can mask a middling quarterback, like Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens. The Cardinals, Titans and Bills all had horrendous defenses this past season. The 49ers had an above average one, coming in at 13th in yards per game allowed.
The 49ers also possess one of the best linebackers in the league with Patrick Willis and a very good defensive tackle in Justin Smith.
Defensively, the 49ers would seem to give Newton the best chance to succeed.
However, the 49ers don't have something that the Bills do: time.
If Newton were to be drafted by the Titans, Cardinals or 49ers he would almost certainly be expected to get on the field almost immediately. Those teams' other choices at quarterback are so bad that they really have no option.
The Bills though, have Ryan Fitzpatrick. While Fitzpatrick isn't Peyton Manning by any means, he was a very solid quarterback in 2010. He would allow Newton to sit for the majority of the year and learn the offense and the game. Newton wouldn't be automatically thrown to the wolves.
But what do the Cardinals and Titans have that the Bills and 49ers didn't? An offensive Pro Bowler.
Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals and Chris Johnson of the Titans were the only offensive players elected to the Pro Bowl from these four teams. And that could be a huge help to Newton.
So it comes down to which is most important for a first year quarterback? Is it a good defense? Enough time to learn? Or offensive playmakers to take pressure off of him?
Cameron Newton can undoubtedly succeed at any of the four destinations, but the Cardinals give him the best chance to become the best quarterback possible.
Derek Anderson would bide him enough time to learn the offense and get acquainted to the NFL game. Larry Fitzgerald, Beanie Wells and Steve Breaston would provide him some serious firepower to work with.
Sure, their defense isn't stellar, but they have guys like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Darnell Dockett who you can build around.
Unfortunately, it looks as if Newton won't fall down to Arizona at number five. And while it may be sad to see Newton deal with a less than ideal situation in Buffalo, the man who really loses is Larry Fitzgerald.
He has to deal with Derek Anderson and John Skelton for another year.