Cam Newton: Future Star, but Not a Band-Aid for the Carolina Panthers
Nobody can argue that Cam Newton is a wonderful draft prospect on paper; a proven winner with a boatload of charisma, freakish athleticism and excellent leadership.
This is the type of quarterback any team should covet, and many teams in the 2011 draft do indeed.
There is one small problem: Newton is not ready to be the savior of a franchise yet.
Yes, he is possibly the most standout quarterback prospect of the 2011 draft, but that does not necessarily mean he is ready to take a team with a top-10 pick to the playoffs.
As good as Newton and his competitor Blaine Gabbert have been in the time leading up to this coming draft, nobody in the 2011 quarterback class is a Sam Bradford.
Bradford was a special quarterback in college, and thus put together an inspiring season in his rookie year. Bradford is, and always was, a true pocket passer. He came out of college ready to be "the guy" for his team, and that is exactly what he did.
Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco are similar examples of quarterbacks who were ready to step up from day one.
Newton is not such a player. Though he has the raw talent, he needs time to develop his skills and learn how to transition into a pro offense. He needs to learn how to be patient in the pocket and not resort to his scrambling prowess, which will not fly in the NFL if he tries.
Drafting Newton as an immediate fix would be horrible for both him and the team that decides to do so.
Teams like the Panthers and Cardinals have immediate needs at many other positions; such a lack of stability spells hard times for a rookie starting quarterback.
The Panthers in particular need help on the offensive line; Newton does not want to be the next David Carr. The thing Newton needs the most is a veteran starter who can carry the quarterback position for his team for at least another two years, while Newton rides the bench, learning the team's offense and gaining valuable experience and knowledge from his new mentor.
A great example of this kind of fit for Newton would be the Buffalo Bills. They have a promising young offensive group that will only continue to grow over the next couple of seasons and have the potential to be a strong team in the near future.
While Ryan Fitzpatrick is not a championship signal-caller, he has proven himself to be a solid and savvy player. Fitzpatrick would be able to continue playing under center while Newton learns the nuances of the offense in Buffalo; at the right time, the switch could then be made seamlessly, rather than throwing Newton to the lions from the day he first suits up.
Newton could of course surprise everyone, but the track record of quarterbacks who are given time to develop is there as proof.
With the exception of guys like Matt Leinart (who don't deserve to wear an NFL jersey anyway), quarterbacks like Matt Cassel, Kevin Kolb and Aaron Rodgers have thrived when given time to learn from a veteran starter—no, I am not comparing Fitzpatrick to Brady, Favre or McNabb.
All Cam Newton needs to be in his first season is willing to watch and learn. If the team that takes him gives him that chance, he might end up being one of the next great young quarterbacks; if they don't, he could just be the next Alex Smith instead.
If the Panthers take the young prospect, it is going to be ugly.
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