It always amazes me in the scouting community how we evaluate these players that come into our league every spring. I was working at ESPN Dallas at the time when Cam Newton was drafted by the Panthers first overall in 2011.
At the time I remember visiting with several of my scout friends around the NFL and the topic of Newton kept coming up and would the Panthers in fact pull the trigger and draft him. My first exposure of him was against my school LSU on a Saturday afternoon on the plains of Alabama. Newton singlehandedly won that football game for Auburn against what I thought was a tremendously talented Tiger defense.
There was nothing that Newton couldn't do that day and throughout the remainder of the season which led to an Auburn national championship. The more I learned about Newton the more I became impressed with his ability to just make big plays. It didn't matter who the Tigers faced that season, Newton was the reason they won those games which as scouts, we sometimes forget but it should be our bottom line.
Cam Newton physically is as impressive as any athlete that I have ever seen coming out of college and that is 13 years of going to the Combine and watching players stand there to be measured for their height and weight. When you watched him play on tape you could see how his height, weight and speed translated into his game. Where we as scouts missed the boat on Newton was his ability to quickly process NFL defenses and how accurately he could throw the ball in tight windows.
We all said that Newton would struggle mentally in this league and he wouldn't be accurate enough. If you run across a scout that tells you otherwise than he is the same guy that told you that he knew that Tony Mandarich was going to be a bust out of Michigan State.
I know there is a small sample size we have of Newton's work from this season to last but he is doing things daily in games that scouts believed he couldn't do. As scouts when tend to try and tear these kids down and point out all the negative points about why a player cannot play in this league instead of focusing on what they do well and trying to play to their strengths.
There were those that wanted to compare Newton to Ja'Marcus Russell from the Raiders who was a first round bust. The biggest difference besides talent is that Newton loves to play football, Russell didn't. Hard to be good at something when you don't love to do it. Another problem that scouts don't see or tend to overlook.
I give the Panthers a lot of credit for making the pick considering they used a second round selection on a quarterback the year before which takes some guts. Hopefully they will find a way to get some players around him because players like this don't come around very often at least one's that scouts grade correctly.