Go to Google and put in "2011 NFL mock drafts." I did that this afternoon, and I couldn't find one current edition of a reputable mock draft that didn't have Auburn quarterback Cam Newton as the number one overall pick to the Carolina Panthers.
This, despite his performance on Camp Gruden last week....
...and despite my second-by-second breakdown of said performance in this here blog.
Indeed, if NFL teams have been frightened by Cam Newton's inability to recall one play -- ANY play -- in his Auburn playbook, the mock draftniks don't think that the Carolina Panthers are one of those teams.
It seems like every quarterback in this year's draft class comes with question marks, to the point where if a bizarro menu existed where you wanted to order a quarterback based on his flaws, you'd have every category covered.
With Cam Newton, it's the aforementioned film-room issues along with questions about the system he played in translating. Ditto Missouri's Blaine Gabbert on the system thing. If character issues are your thing, may I interest you in Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, who has had drug rumors chasing him like an edge rusher since the whole draft process started?
Need some inaccuracy? How about Washington's Jake Locker?
Want to be underwhelmed by someone athletically? TCU's Andy Dalton.
Questionable decision-making (on-field category)? Christian Ponder.
You get my point. Every quarterback in this class has flaws that should give teams pause before investing tens of millions of dollars in him. There's no sure things in any draft class, but there're not even any Matt Ryans or Sam Bradfords in this one.
The only "sure thing" in the 2011 draft class, well, he decided to go back to Stanford for his senior year.
Still, experts expect at least four and up to six (maybe seven) quarterbacks to be taken before the middle of the second round of the draft this weekend. Why? Because you "need a franchise quarterback to compete" (pretty much true). Teams can't help themselves. They are so desperate to get a franchise quarterback that they'll convince themselves that they can be the team who will teach Cam Newton how to digest a playbook, that they will be the ones who can make Jake Locker throw accurately, that they can be the ones who will provide Ryan Mallett with an environment that holds him accountable.
In the end, it's educated guessing anyway. The Ravens had to draft Kyle Boller (and watch him fail) before they could get to Joe Flacco. The Falcons had to live through Michael Vick (first overall pick, amazing athlete, felon) going to prison so they could bottom out and draft Matt Ryan. The Raiders are still trying to dig out from underneath the rubble that JaMarcus Russell's bloated carcass left behind.
It's funny, in 2002, the Carolina Panthers were in a similar spot to the one they're in now. They held the number two pick in the draft (This year, they're number one.). They had a first time head coach coming in after years as a successful defensive coordinator (John Fox; now, it's Ron Rivera.). Their quarterback situation was a mess (Chris Weinke, Rodney Peete, etc; now, it involves a Clausen).
With the number two pick in that 2002 draft, the Panthers drafted North Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers. Within two years, they were in the Super Bowl with Peppers and Fox leading the defense and cagey Cajun veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme running the offense. Meanwhile, the picks before and after Peppers were both quarterbacks -- David Carr to the Texans and Joey Harrington to the Lions.
Both failed miserably, setting their teams back years in the process. (On the upside, sales of hair gel skyrocketed in both Houston and Detroit over the next four years!) When the urge to succumb to "quarterback for the sake of quarterback" was there in 2002, the Panthers said "no thanks" and went defense.
You'd think of all teams in this 2011 draft, the Panthers would know to let someone else buy into Team Newton.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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