Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

13 Jan 2011

Cam Newton Declares for NFL Draft

An optimist would say he's proven all he can at the collegiate level. A cynic would say he's staying one step ahead of the law. Either way, Cam Newton has officially made himself eligible for the NFL Draft. Andrew Luck's decision to stay in college was a surprise, but otherwise the declarations have more or less gone according to plan. There have been surprises -- Jacquizz "Pocket Herculizz" Rodgers declaring was unexpected if understandable (he's not getting any faster, and he's already taken quite a beating in college) -- but the list is taking shape about how we expected.

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 13 Jan 2011

52 comments, Last at 18 Jan 2011, 8:11am by Mr Shush


by FireOmarTomlin :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 10:37pm

fark $cam.

title vacated within 3 years.

Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.

by speedegg :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 10:57pm

I agree, I didn't hear or see anything on why Cam Newton and father decided on Auburn and why Auburn didn't report his dad shopping Newton to the NCAA.

Maybe another Yahoo! Sports reporter will crack the case on this one like Bush. It took two years for the NCAA to "conclude" their findings on Bush and USC, it will probably take another two to "rediscover" something else about the Newton/Auburn case.

by ASmitty (not verified) :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 11:10pm

I put his chances of NFL success at maybe 5%.

by JoeHova :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 12:02am

Why so low?

by ASmitty (not verified) :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 12:18am

This is dumbed down, of course, but this is what the Cam Newton offense looked like to me:

Two high safeties? Run over the defense.

One high safety? Run over the defense.

No high safeties? Bomb it deep.

I just have very little faith that Newton can consistently or safely run over NFL defenses, even if they only have seven or eight in the box, and I have equally little faith that Newton can reliably complete passes when there are safeties to account for.

At the college level, Newton's whole game flowed from his running ability, and his running success was built on gaining consistent yards after contact against linebackers and d-linemen. I just don't see Newton doing that at the next level without getting hurt or being ineffective. In college, teams dared Newton to throw by loading the box, but in the NFL I think teams will dare him to run and expose himself to hits in against the front seven or throw it against two high safeties. He would have to make significant strides with regard to reading coverages to be effective.

by sundown (not verified) :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 2:27am

Sound assessment and that's almost exactly what you saw out of Tebow this season. The Broncos tried using the same sorts of plays he thrived on at Florida, but they were going for one or two yards and setting up guaranteed passing downs where the defense was at an advantage. And based on their success rate in the NFL, I think you need to assume spread QBs are incapable of reading defenses until proven otherwise.

by fyo :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 4:54am

The Broncos tried using the same sorts of plays he thrived on at Florida, but they were going for one or two yards

Tebow ran for 5.3 yards per run. His rushing DVOA was 24.2%. That's not exactly struggling numbers...

Even his passing DVOA was decent, 18.2%.

by zlionsfan :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 11:19pm

I would be more likely to agree if you were talking about spread option QBs. Obviously spread offenses can work in the NFL, but the difference is that with so much more speed from the front seven, defenses can stop QB runs much more easily than in college, so plays like the zone read and midline option don't really work; the defense can simply force the ball to the QB, run him down, and put the offense in an obvious passing situation. (They can work on occasion - after all, Drew Stanton picked up a couple of first downs this season on what appeared to be zone read plays - but I think that is more from novelty than from effectiveness.)

So when you take the QB-run threat out of a spread option offense, it becomes a regular spread, and if the QB does not need to read defenses in college, he may need some more work in training camp and exhibition games to get to a similar level of effectiveness in the pros.

I'm not sure that spread option QBs are the only QBs that need work reading defenses ... based on what we see every year in the NFL, there are quite a few QBs from pretty much every type of offense who don't seem capable of reading and recognizing coverages.

by Anonymus (not verified) :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 8:21am

My first sport is soccer, but I can understand what you say. It happens there as well. It happens when the youth academy is not seeing as belonging to a "farm-system", where players learn the game, develop different sets of skills and get prepared to the different and tougher approuch to the game of the pro-level. When all that matters is winning, this is completely put aside.

It's quite common to young players not to live to the hype when they become pro, because they are used to play against oposition immature as they are, and to have the whole team playing for him to shine. Two things that simply doesn't happen.

And teams got stuck with useless young millionaires...

by Dired :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 9:59am

Sure, that's been the issue with college football for awhile now. The SEC and other conferences don't play pro-style offenses, so even though their QBs are the biggest college stars every year, their pro success is way lower than their college profile would suggest. The ones who play pro-style offenses, with multiple-reads and throw-first, run-only-if-necessary at least get some preparation. But as the big-money college game continues to diverge from the NFL, certain positions, especially QB, cease to be prepared. So teams start looking to lower-profile programs (even lower divisions) for people with pro-style offense experience, and the Heisman winner gets the "project" label. They won't all be JaMarcuses, but you'll think of him every draft. And you'll dread the possibility your team will spend a high-round pick on the guy and then wasting the next 5 years trying (and failing) to justify it.

If the players in college got paid commensurate to their profitability that would be one thing, but with an impending rookie cap, they won't be able to rely on idiotic front offices paying star contracts to guys who will never be pro-bowl players in the pros, even though they were the best players in the country a few years ago.

by MJK :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 12:40pm

I didn't see much of Auburn this season, but based on what I've heard the talking heads saying this year, a lot of Newton's success was due to the fact that the Auburn O-line is really good compared to the defenses they faced. They were saying that Oregon was the first team that actually dirtied his jersey, and that they expected him to fail at the NFL level because he's never had to deal with significant pocket pressure the way he will in the NFL.

Is this a fair assessment?

by ASmitty (not verified) :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 1:01pm

Auburn really struggled at home against a not very good Clemson team, and that was largely due to the fact that Clemson had one of the nation's best, if not the best, defensive lines. Clemson kept at least one safety back throughout a lot of the game and when they did, Newton often threw the ball right to them because he was only looking to see if the receiver had beaten the corner.

Later in the game Auburn's tempo often began to fatigue the Clemson defense and Auburn won in OT. But the lesson really stuck with me; against big time fronts Newton was forced to throw into coverages he really didn't understand.

by William Lloyd Garrision III (not verified) :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 5:34pm

Good example to use. I remember that game well, it was very, very physical. I think Clemson was using that game as an audition to get into the SEC down the line and turned it up a notch.

But hold everything: piercing insights and analysis just in a hour or so ago on DC 106.7 the FAN. According to Lavar (of Lavar and Dukes fame) Arrington, Cam Newton should not be compared to other recent QB-busts like JaMarcus Russel, who is fat and lazy, and not "clearly on the straight and narrow like Cam is." No, instead, he should be compared to another Auburn QB of late, Jason Campbell. Ah yes, now I see.

by ASmitty :: Sat, 01/15/2011 - 3:28am

I'm not sure I could think of many NFL quarterbacks who would be a worse comparison than Jason Campbell. There goes the black quarterback theory.

And yes, that Auburn-Clemson game was awesome. With the exception of the stretch where Clemson's QB was too hurt to do anything other than hand off it was maybe the most entertaining and physical football game I watched all year. I think it bears noting that Auburn played two games this season that I thought they were lucky to win; the first was at home against Clemson and the second was on the road against Alabama. Both of those teams have exceptional defensive lines, and both severely limited Newton before the effects of tempo set in.

I really think NFL fronts will give Newton Hell.

by jimbohead :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 3:12pm

not only that, but his footwork looked really slow and kind of lazy in the bowl game. I haven't watched Auburn over the season, and it's possible that I'm reacting to his large frame, but I've seen other QBs in that height range look quick in their dropbacks. Its just frustrating to watch him saunter through a dropback, telegraph the run direction on handoffs, and stand straight up in the pocket like he's waiting for drinks at a bar, then see him take off on a scramble and demonstrate some pretty quick moves.

by Dean :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 4:32pm

Sometimes looks can be deceiving.

If I were a team scouting him, I'd pull the tape and get a stopwatch and time his dropbacks compared with other QBs to see if it's the frame or if he really is slow. Could be either.

by jimbohead :: Sat, 01/15/2011 - 12:13am

Oh i agree, and I'm sure real scouts do use a stopwatch to time a few of his 3-5-7 step drops. But when he hands off, he takes a step in the direction of the run, and meets the RB only like 2-3 yards off the LOS. That just doesn't seem quite right.

by Spielman :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 12:08am

One jump ahead of the lawmen
That's all, and that's no joke
These guys don't appreciate I'm broke

by Michael (not verified) :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 12:55am

"Ladies and gentlemen, with the tenth pick of the 2011 NFL draft, the Washington Redskins select Vince Young 2.0."

by 3.14159265 (not verified) :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 1:17am

It would be funnier if Titans took him.

by sundown (not verified) :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 2:31am

Or the Broncos. Sort of an NFL version of Groundhog Day.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 9:51am

Tim Tebow is Vince Young 2.0. Cam Newton is Vince Young 3.11 For Workgroups.

by TimK :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 2:42pm

If Tebow turns out to be Vince Young with work ethic and leadership abilities then as a Denver fan I won't be too unhappy. At the moment that looks to me to be not too unlikely either.

Young showed flashes, but his mental state seems to be a major problem. Tebow seems pretty grounded, and everyone says he works hard and is coachable, so I'm cautiously optimistic he will be able to make it as a genuine NFL QB. I'm not saying he'll live up to the hype (fortunately here in the UK I don't get much of that) just that he has a fair chance to have a decent career as a starting QB with a bit of luck.

by ASmitty (not verified) :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 2:52pm

I think the odds are against Tebow, but if I had to choose one from him, Young or Newton, I'd go with Tebow.

Tebow has the build to take hits in the running game that Young and Newton don't, and his work ethic/character seems significantly higher.

If you're going to be a running QB in the NFL you better be as elusive as Vick or as stout as Tebow, and you better be committed to spending a LOT of time refining your passing game.

by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 4:08pm

Not to mention he has deceptive speed, is tough, gritty and brings his lunchpail to work every day.

by ASmitty :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 4:21pm

I hate the Tebow hype machine as much as anyone, but if the shoe fits...

In recent memory there have been four running QBs picked in the first round; McNabb, Vick, Young and Tebow. Young or Tebow seems like the closest comp...I don't see the Big Ben comparison at all.

by William Lloyd Garrision III (not verified) :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 5:40pm

Yea, I don't see that Big Ben thing either, except that they are both big guys. I think (and I really need to move on from this topic) that people compare him to Big Ben to try to meander around the whole "black quarterback" thread, which is not something you want to say on TV.

by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 7:16pm

I think his release compares more closely to Big Ben than to any of the other running quarterbacks. Vick's too short, Young's release is too slow and inaccurate and Tebow's is too low and too slow. If he wasn't a runner at all then you'd probably hear nothing but Big Ben comparisons bacause he actually has a NFLish release and is so tall. The comparison isn't necessarily diue to political correctness.

by Spielman :: Sat, 01/15/2011 - 12:54pm

Culpepper. If McNabb is recent, so is he.

by ASmitty :: Sat, 01/15/2011 - 2:03pm

Was he a running QB coming out? Honest question, I don't remember him in college at all.

by johonny (not verified) :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 3:23pm

Vince Young was putting up good number this year. Young has problems with his coach relationship. Young might be closer to Jeff George. He can play good football, but his personality prevents organizations from sticking with him long term. If talent wise he developed into Young I don't think that's horrible. Hard to know these college kids maturity until they start going through the NFL process.

by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 7:18pm

VY put up a passer rating of 98 and a DVOA of 25% (5th) last year. I still wouldn't want my team (49ers) to go after him because he's been totally spoilt by the over-boosting at Texas.

by Theo :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 6:03am

"Randall Cobb Kentucky AP"

His postition is AP? What does AP mean?

by Spielman :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 8:13am

All purpose, I'm assuming.

by Jimbo :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 8:47am

A.P. stands for Athlete Procurer as in the AP for Auburn procures talent at a reasonable price. Heeeyooo!

by justanothersteve :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 8:27am

I'm interested that during the Oregon game and the shows leading up to it the talking heads I heard mostly compared him to Rothlisburger, only with better running ability. Primarily because he's a little bigger and good at shedding lineman trying to tackle him behind the line. (IIRC, Tebow was the next most common comparison.) Don't know what Big Ben was like in college. But that's an interesting comparision.

by andrew :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 9:19am

When he throws the ball, it obeys newtonian phsycis.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 9:47am

"An optimist would say he's proven all he can at the collegiate level. A cynic would say he's staying one step ahead of the law."

Can't he be both, like the late Earl Warren?

by Dean :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 10:41am

So how much of a pay cut does he take by going pro?

by JonFrum :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 1:11pm

So a college football player getting money is a big deal? I'd be very careful throwing that accusation around if it was a college football fan. College athletics have been dirty since there have been college athletics. Most of the NFL greats of the past probably took cash in envelopes every month. I went to a major SEC school in the '90s, and there were stories about the 'host girls' who met with recruits and showed them around town - let's just say they made the cheerleaders look like dogs. Pulling a 'gotcha' on Newton is petty, and suggests a thirteen-year-old mentality. Football is a business - the end.

That being said, Newton has shown no NFL skills, and he's done it for just one year. Not a recipe for success. They pay running backs to run. They pay quarterbacks to pass. Newton runs and he throws - not passes. If you build an offense around, him, you need his twin as backup. Makes no sense - you may as well sign an option quarterback.

by roguerouge :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 1:25pm

So... what you're saying is that the Broncos should draft him?

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 2:29pm

Yes. And sign Young in free agency. Pick up enough big, really good option/wildcat quarterbacks, and running same as your base offense in the NFL becomes potentially viable, maybe even a good idea. I'd certainly love to see someone try it.

by speedegg :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 2:30pm

I agree with you on that the amateur label doesn't always apply to college football or that student athletes get benefits, the issue is the NCAA's lack of standards and enforcement.

If you're going to let Auburn or any other school get away with benefits, why punish Ohio State, NC State, USC, and others? Or why suspend Dez Bryant for a year when he lied about an infraction that never occurred? Just let schools pay their athletes and give them benefits. You probably won't get TCUs or Boise States in the top 10, but revert back to perennial powers such as Texas, Florida, Florida State, Ohio State, Penn State, and USC.

by William Lloyd Garrision III (not verified) :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 5:53pm

See I think if you let schools pay athletes, you will get TCU's and Mississippi States in the top 10. Right now, because of television, marketing, BCS, etc., the "haves" don't want the "have nots" to be able to compete on an equal footing.

The value of the tuition alone for a scholarship at Notre Dame is probably twice that of a Mississippi State. Plus, you can't easily but a dollar amount on TV exposure, etc. but its real and very big. The Mississippi States of the world should be able to say: "look kid, we realize the total value of that marquee school's package is about $200K for four years, and ours is only about $100K. Let's us make this worthwhile and give you the $100K difference to come here."

I don't see how this is morally wrong. I see how it's good business, but the cartel doesn't want it, so they make us think it's a sin to have buyers and sellers of talent operate in a true market fashion.

Last year's Football Outsider's annual had an article about how the same 15 schools or so have dominated recruiting for something like 40 or 50 years. Nobody comes in to the upper echelon for more than just a copy of coffee now and then. This, I submit, is mostly because all the ways in have been declared to be mortal sins by the NCAA papacy and we are told that these impure thoughts are inspired the the fallen arch-angels that masquerade as agents.

by tuluse :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 6:02pm

Where is the money going to come from to pay the players?

The reason the "haves" are the haves is because they have big time boosters donating millions of dollars to them.

by morganja :: Sat, 01/15/2011 - 5:33pm

Same place the money comes from now, tv contracts, tickets and merchandise sales. It's a strange thing to see people who normally abhor the government for being 'socialist' fall all over themselves to defend the most anti-free market government program of them all. Let them compete like any other business.

by tuluse :: Sat, 01/15/2011 - 5:43pm

That's fine but the current big schools would have a huge advantage. They have a huge built in fan base, and are much more attractive to TV.

by zlionsfan :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 11:06pm

For one thing, TCU is already in the top 10.

For another, I honestly don't understand how you think that allowing schools to pay athletes would benefit anyone but the "haves". As tuluse said, from where will that money come? Do you really believe that if rules were no object, Mississippi State would be able to compete with Alabama? (Insert SEC recruiting joke here.) MSU can offer your hypothetical kid $100K ... and a marquee school will see that offer and raise it $300K, and he will not be enrolling at Starkville.

If anything, the existing rules probably help the little guys; the more that big schools have to work (somewhat) within the rules, the smaller that disadvantage will appear to be.

by William Lloyd Garrision III (not verified) :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 5:43pm

If I could get a gold Trans Am like they showed Eric Dickerson having on that SMU 30 for 30, I would take it too.

by Joseph :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:44pm

Regarding this comparison between the 3:

#1--There seem to be 3 reasons highly drafted QB's fail--lack of skills (Couch, Alex Smith), lack of maturity (Russell, Leaf), and injuries.
#2--IMO, you can work on skills, to a bit, and maturity to a bit (Big Ben, Vick), and injuries are pretty much out of anyone's control.
#3--I watched a lot of Young & Tebow, only the championship game with Newton (living in Mexico, I get a night game--usually Pac-10). I'd take Tebow in a heartbeat, just because everything points to him being humble, coachable, and wanting to learn to get better. Having said that, he'd probably be better off on a team that had a great QB for him to learn under, rather than Kyle Orton. If Young matures, he will probably have the best career, as he has already demonstrated ability to play QB reasonably well. If he doesn't, Tebow will--just because he can and wants to get better. I worry with Newton--that he needs coaching as a passer, but that he won't accept it well.
#4--Having said that, if Newton goes after #16, he probably gets a chance to set on the bench for a bit and study, and he might do well. If he goes in the top-10, he is probably going to a team that expects him to start soon--and that's probably not going to work out.
IMO, the reason Carson Palmer was really good (till injuries got him) is that he sat on the bench and learned from Kitna. Kitna never had the ability that Palmer had, but it seems that Kitna (and prob. the CIN coaches) taught him about film study, reading defenses, etc. It also seems that Rodgers absorbed some of the same from Favre, and Rivers from Brees (who writes in his book that he learned some of that from Flutie). Comparing VY's 2007 stats to his 2009 stats, I would say he benefitted some from sitting on the bench for most of 2008 behind Kerry Collins. Unfortunately, since maturity isn't Collins strong suit either, it doesn't look like Young got better in this department.

by Capt. Anonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:51pm

Lewin got pretty close add a couple of things to his analysis and its pretty dead on.

As far as running qb's. THey always seem to play on teams with a pretty good record.


all have had pretty good records as NFL starters. However, noone on that list has gotten to the Superbowl which should be the ultimate goal.

I think Cam's Legs alone would vault a below average team to .500 or better each season but I don't think that team will be celebrating any superbowls.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 8:11am

I think the useful conclusions which can be drawn from Lewin's work are something like:

1. Accuracy is really important and is difficult to significantly improve by the time a player has turned pro. College completion percentage is a tolerable proxy for accuracy, though far from a perfect one. It is extremely inadvisable to draft a quarterback with questionable accuracy high.

2. Scouts benefit from having more film on a player. One season's worth is not enough. The more a guy played in college, the more confidence you should have in whatever your scouts tell you about him.