2011 NFL Draft Preview: The Carolina Panthers Must Take Cam Newton

Chris GazzeCorrespondent IApril 10, 2011

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10:  Quarterback Cameron Newton #2 of the Auburn Tigers celebrates the Tigers 22-19 victory against the Oregon Ducks in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Jimmy Clausen should be looking over his shoulder, because if the Carolina Panthers make the choice with the first overall draft pick, Cam Newton will be looming tall behind the second year quarterback.

Not to overly simplify things, but if you want to win in the NFL, you need a franchise quarterback, and when you are in position to draft a franchise quarterback, you better not pass it up.

Let’s take a look at Newton’s closest NFL comparison, Ben Roethlisberger.

In 2004, Roethlisberger, along with Eli Manning and Philip Rivers, were the top three quarterbacks in the draft, and any one of them could have been selected at the top of the draft.

Roethlisberger was the odd man out and began to fall.

Then the Cleveland Browns swapped draft positions with the Detroit Lions. Owning the sixth pick in the draft, the Browns were in perfect position to land a franchise quarterback who also happened to be from Ohio. Instead, they took tight end Kellen Winslow.

Meanwhile, Roethlisberger continued to fall until the 11th spot, where the Pittsburgh Steelers stood.

It has been well-documented that head coach Bill Cowher was interested in sticking with veteran quarterback Tommy Maddox and therefore improve their line with the addition of offensive guard Shawn Andrews.

Dan Rooney disagreed. He already saw the Steelers pass up one potential franchise quarterback in 1983 when they did not draft Dan Marino, who happened to play at Pitt.

Fast-forward to 2011.

Two Super Bowl titles and three appearances later, Pittsburgh is very satisfied with their choice to bring in the franchise signal caller.

Carolina appeared to get a second round steal with Clausen, who was predicted by some to be a potential franchise quarterback.

Not quite.

Clausen displayed many limitations as a rookie. Quite simply, he has a very limited upside.

Throwing for only three touchdowns to nine interceptions in 10 starts, Clausen had a 58.4 quarterback rating.

His arm strength is limited, and he is no threat to make plays with his legs. While the Panthers have a strong ground attack, that will only get a team so far when they are so limited by their quarterback.

Enter Newton.

He is by far the most intriguing prospect in this year’s draft.

Newton has enormous potential to be a star and equal potential to be a bust. But you can’t win if you don’t try, right?

Carolina will never get over the fact that they passed over a potential great quarterback. However, if they select him and he is a bust, everyone will be telling them “I told you so.”

Newton is worth the risk.

While some call him cocky, arrogant and judge him purely by his body language, I say he has the “it” factor and the type of moxy that I want from a guy in my huddle.

Others will criticize him as a system quarterback who is not very accurate. I think he has a big arm and will learn the NFL game. You can’t teach size, you can’t teach strength and you can’t teach speed. Those are Newton’s best assets.

Going back to the Roethlisberger comparison, Newton is big, 6'5" and 248 pounds, has a strong arm and is very elusive. He may not get it done the conventional way, but when Newton had to carry his team, he did just that.

While Roethlisberger is a more accurate quarterback, Newton is quicker, which could aid him, particularly as he first gets his feet wet.

Newton is very raw and has a lot to learn, but early in his career, he will be able to get by on his pure talent alone.

But maybe the most important factor in selecting Newton is that he wants to be great. That may seem arrogant to some, but that is the drive that you want to carry your team, which does not have much going on right now.

Newton wants to have the spotlight on him and the center of attention, and he knows that winning is the only way that can be achieved.

Newton would instantly energize the Carolina franchise, and his explosive abilities would put the Panthers back on the NFL map.

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