Did Participating in the NFL Combine Help or Hurt Cam Newton’s Draft Potential?

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For a few months now, all eyes have been on former Auburn quarterback, and Heisman trophy winner, Cam Newton. His on the field performance for Auburn made many think he has the potential to be the stuff of legends. However, with problems off the field, and the end of season mired in personal scandal, as opposed to a focus on his ability to go to the NFL and become a professional quarterback of the caliber that the NFL requires, many questions have been raised. Any talk of his draft potential seemed to be in relation to the off-the-field controversy he found himself in.

After winning the Heisman, while still mired in scandal, many have been eagerly following Newton during the start of the NFL combine. As opposed to other quarterbacks vying for top spots in the draft this year, such as Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert, Newton made the decision to have full participation in the combine – from the interviews to the actual quarterback workouts and drills. After his performance, both in the interviews as well as in his actual workouts, many are beginning to wonder if he made the right decision by participating.

Sources say that, during the interview process, he has been a bit on the defensive side when questioned about the off-the-field problems faced by Newton and his family. Others said that he did not come across as a very genuine player in the interview process either, which is certainly cause for concern. Take that, in combination with his mediocre performance and inconsistent throwing (plenty of power, lacking in accuracy), I personally believe that his draft stock has been lowered.

To get a top draft pick as a quarterback in the NFL, you have to prove that you have a level head, along with the skills to be a pro at those ranks. While Newton has managed the negative publicity of the scandal rather well, his lackluster performance in the interviews is likely to have many scouts and general managers questioning whether or not he is worth the risk as a first round pick. With so many NFL players who have off the field troubles, which has been shown to have negative ramifications on the entire team, a reluctance to spend that first round pick on someone who raises more questions than answers might not bode well for Newton.

There is also the factor of the style of offense that Newton played while at Auburn. A self-proclaimed scrambling quarterback, Newton’s pass and rush ratios were fairly even, whereas other potential high round draft picks are more pocket passers, who check all their looks down field, and only then, take off with the ball if no options are open. Newton, as with many other scrambling quarterbacks, checks for the most obvious option before taking off with the ball.

Some scrambling quarterbacks have been successful in the NFL, but inconsistency, turnovers, and injuries tend to follow these quarterbacks around like a bad joke. There have been a few successful scramblers, like Ben Roethlisberger, Steve McNair, and Donovan McNabb, who have managed to have playoff caliber careers without being constantly prone to injury. Their size is likely the biggest factor that allows them to take the beating that NFL defenses will put on this type of quarterback. Newton has the size, but then again, so did Tavaris Jackson, and the translation from college to pro just did not pan out for him.

Newton’s future is still very much up in the air right now. However, given the stock of the other quarterbacks in this year’s draft, I think that his performance, both in the interview process, as well as in the actual workouts, have detracted from the stock he might have otherwise had coming into the draft.