GMs, analysts dissect Newton from every angle

QB Cam Newton brings star power to the podium and questions on and off the football field. Is he a worthy consideration for the Vikings at No. 12 overall or a bust waiting to happen? GMs and analysts examined those questions over the last week at the NFL Scouting Combine. See inside for many different opinions.

He won a National Championship. He won a junior college championship. He has won at every level. "He" is Cam Newton. In fact, Cam Newton is so big that Cam Newton refers to Cam Newton in the third person.

Newton certainly created the buzz of an entertainer and an icon at the NFL Scouting Combine, but is he a legitimate top-10 prospect – or even an option for the Vikings with the 12th pick?

The former Auburn quarterback created quite a stir early last week when he was quoted as saying he wanted to be an entertainer and icon, a statement that had some analysts questioning his dedication to football. Was it much ado about nothing or a legitimate concern? That depends on who is asked, and plenty of people were surveyed about him over the last week.

"I think for certain teams it is not (a red flag). For some teams (it is)," said Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who admitted that character was a huge factor when he drafted quarterback Matt Ryan. "I think they will research it more. I don't think it will dissuade them from taking someone with such quality talent. I think it … we talk about it all the time here at the Combine about being vehemently opposed to raising somebody or lowering a player drastically because of an interview. Again, it's a highlight to revisit."

Former Vikings quarterback Rich Gannon, now an NFL analyst for CBS Sports and Sirius NFL Radio, has concerns about Newton's comments but sees the athleticism on the field, which makes Newton a tough assessment.

"You look at them on tape, there's some exciting things. You see some skills, you see some playmaking ability. You can see that he can throw the football," Gannon said. "But here's a guy who comes out and says, ‘I want to be an entertainer and an icon.' Now, that's not the kind of guy that I want to be coaching at that position. To me, that's a little brash. That's not really what I'm looking for in terms of a leader of my football team."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik said the NCAA investigation into Newton's past – allegations that his father was shopping his son to colleges in exchange for big money during the recruiting process – carries some weight with NFL teams. But a team that is seriously considering drafting him would likely conduct its own investigation.

Dominik said intelligence on the football field and playbook retention is a major issue with quarterback prospects.

"That was a real major, important part, and I think Cam is going to have to come here and prove that he can handle the volume in the National Football League and what that means, because he's obviously done a great job at the collegiate level," Dominik said. "So I think that's going to be the number one thing. Because we all know he has the athleticism, the strength and physical attributes to be successful. But it's the mental attributes that you really have to figure out here."

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman focused on Newton's physical skills and his ability to win games, saying, "He's a talented individual, obviously, he's got all the tools. He's a great athlete. He's got size, he's got arm strength, he's a winner. … Wherever he goes he'll be successful."

Giants general manager Jerry Reese said Newton's icon comments are much ado about nothing, but former NFL front-office executive Michael Lombardi, who is now an analyst with NFL Network, believes teams will have to do a thorough background check on Newton.

"Newton is a very, very talented player and he's done some remarkable things in an offense that is unique, but I think he's going to have prove to the NFL people that he's committed, he's willing to work hard," Lombardi said. "He's really not an icon yet, that he's going to have to take some time to develop his game and he's going to have to show people that he's willing to work hard and that there's an offense that he can fit around and he can develop within. That's a difficult question to answer."

The questions about his ability to adapt to an NFL offense could be key. At Auburn, he was in a spread offense that called allowed him gain about half as many rushing yards (1,473) as passing yards (2,874). He had 30 passing touchdowns (only seven interceptions) and 20 rushing touchdowns in 2010 alone.

So, beyond the questions of his dedication to the game, there is the issue of how much development he needs as an NFL quarterback.

"I want a guy who wants to come in and do the dirty work and be the hardest-working guy on the football team and come early and stay late," Gannon said. "When you talk about being an entertainer and an icon, I get the sense it's a guy who doesn't want to come to work on a Tuesday, which is the players' day off, and would rather be filming a commercial or out signing autographs. That to me is not what you want from that position."

Lombardi said that extra work is paramount for a quarterback, especially someone like Newton and the Auburn offense in which he was immersed.

"He still needs 10,000 hours of reps to hone his skills. The NFL is not like the NBA. You don't go from high school and start playing really good," Lombardi said. "The NFL takes time, and especially at quarterback, which you're almost like a fighter pilot. You have to be in the plane; you have to train yourself. It's very difficult. The game moves very fast and your confidence goes down. JaMarcus Russell, the same thing happened with him. The work ethic wasn't good. To me, Cam Newton has a huge "Mother, May I?" step forward before he can become an icon."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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