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NFL Draft – QB Cam Newton Shines in Early Workout
Photo - Cam Newton - Auburn
Heisman Trophy winner, QB Cam Newton of Auburn held a private workout this week in front of the media and cameras prior to the NFL Combine. Newton worked out in shorts and did agility drills before throwing passes to a few receivers for almost 1 hour in San Diego. He has been in San Diego since late January, working six days a week with QB coach George Whitfield Jr. and personnel consultant Hall of Fame QB Warren Moon.
We viewed the film from Newton’s workout a few times and spoke to NFL scouts who watched the presentation and add our insight to the first stage of Cam Newton’s journey to the NFL Draft 2011.
George Whitfield has worked with many NFL passers that included working with the Steelers' QB Ben Roethlisberger during his four-game suspension. While Whitfield is Newton's coach, Moon described his role as a mentor. "But if I see something that I can help him improve on, I'm going to do that," Moon said.
Moon is an excellent mentor after having Pro bowl careers in both the NFL and Canadian Leagues and playing in each the spread and pro style offenses. That last transition is paramount if college passers expect to have success at the NFL level. Many college starters operate in various forms of the spread offense with little or no experience operating under center and learning all the nuances for the game’s most important position. This year Newton is one of several highly regarded prospects that face that critical conversion and working with Moon was an excellent decision for his draft status and move to the NFL. Newton started only one season at the D1 level after backing up at Florida and starting one season at the JC level at Blinn College. Though his 2010 performance was outstanding, he needs extensive work on the basic fundamentals for the position before challenging for an early NFL starting job.
Newton addressed some of these issue this week prior to the NFL Combine workout where the QB drills have clear and definite limits. Thursday’s workout was limited to a few drills and both operating under center and dropping back and throwing to receivers vs no defenders. Newton threw the ball sharply whether the Tigers to the BCS national title.
He made a strong showing related to his raw athletic talent and his capacity and ability to digest and make fast progress learning the finer points of the pro position. He worked in a controlled workout though, orchestrated by his QB coach George Whitfield. He took a good first step in this workout, though it is only a start in an offseason with several critical evaluation stages that become part of the whole scouting process.
There were no NFL scouts in attendance to view the results of the workout, but general managers, personnel directors, scouts and coaches have been impressed by the video footage that was available.
Newton has made nice progress in only weeks from the national title game. He needs to make the transition from operating in a spread offensive system to play in an NFL-style offense under center. The workout directed a series of drills that showcased his overall athleticism, throwing mechanics, field awareness and instincts.
During the individual drills, he displayed impressive athleticism, foot speed, agility and overall movement skills while executing a series of drops. For a huge athlete, he moves easily with the ability to quickly change direction and retain his fine speed. He looked very fluid executing a series of three, five and seven step drops. He also took snaps cleanly from center and showed excellent quickness setting up in the pocket
Asked if he was surprised analysts don't think his skills will translate to the NFL, he replied: "That's the competitor that I am. I won't be surprised -- I'm making that leap right now -- until I'm a Super Bowl champion. That's what I'm going for from day one, reaching for greatness. The supporting cast that I have is pushing me to be great, I'm pushing myself to be great and I demand greatness for myself. So coming in the door, working out every single day, I'm shooting for greatness."
As a passer, he showed exceptional arm strength, velocity and touch. During the series of drills, he showed the ability to make all the throws and go through the route tree with the ability to show power when necessary and touch when it was essential. He has the natural talent to continue to progress on making all the throws in a route tree with playing experience and settling into an offense.
During the session, Moon picked up a few things and told Newton.
"He wasn't transferring well," Moon said afterward. "He was throwing leaning backward. Even though he has a very strong arm, I don't care how strong of an arm you have, if you're not in the right throwing motion, you're not going to get good accuracy on the football, the ball is going to go high on you. As soon as he gets that weight transferred, he throws the ball as accurately as anyone you've been around."
Moon has not been at every session this winter, but Whitfield films every workout and sends it to him.
"I just see him improving," Moon said. "Every day he does something a little bit better than he did the day before, whether it's taking the snap from center or whether it's transferring his weight from dropping back to throwing the football. That's where he's making his biggest adjustment, to me, is being able to drop back, because that's something he's never had to do, and then transfer that weight forward to get velocity behind your throws and also to get accuracy."
Newton showed good anticipation to deliver the ball in open windows well during a series of read drills. He has a savvy understanding for throwing to receivers in open areas with the ability to deliver accurate passes in tight windows. He hit moving targets easily while his overall accuracy was very good while working from a conventional drop under center.
Newton needs to continue to work on his basic setup, reads and footwork prior to throwing the ball to convince NFL scouts he is ready for pro playing time. His ability to balance his body in the setup and his overall weight transfer and lower body needs further work. Surprisingly, he also needs to work on throwing on the move where his elite running skills make him a huge weapon, but has retarded his development passing outside the pocket.
“This whole transformation from the college level to the NFL is a big leap," he said. "But at the same time, you have to be mature enough to be able to work on your talent when nobody is looking. This is your profession, this is your job. And I have to come at it every single day trying to get better at what I do."
Newton is one of our ‘Wild Card’ prospects of the first round and his progress will probably determine the order that the top QBs come off the board. Remember Tim Tebow struggled greatly at the Senior Bowl 2009, but had a strong workout portion of the process that moved into the late first round by the Broncos. Newton gets no All-star action as a junior and his workouts and interviews will be the final part of his scouting evaluation. He is much more advanced on his throwing mechanics than Tebow was at this time last winter.
I currently rank Newton in the middle of the first round in a fluid process with a few essential step remaining that should have a huge impact on how the early rounds fall out in the NFL Draft 2011.