If Panthers pass, Newton could find himself in first-round freefall
Cam Newton sits atop nearly every NFL mock draft, but there's no guarantee he will be the first player selected Thursday night. Jimmy Clausen was on the top of some mock drafts last season. Same with Brady Quinn in 2007 and Aaron Rodgers in 2005. They all fell well below the top spot, and the same could happen with Newton.
While it still seems Newton is the most likely pick for the Panthers at No. 1, there are question marks about the former Auburn quarterback everywhere you turn. Consider:
• Newton has only one year of playing experience in major college football. How do NFL decision-makers know college defenses wouldn't have caught up with him like they did with Jake Locker?
• NFL teams are concerned about Newton's accuracy. Yes, he completed 66 percent of his passes last season, but he was throwing to open receivers since defenses were so worried about his running ability. Newton did not display accuracy at the combine, and even though he was better at his pro day, he still wasn't as precise as the other top QB prospects. Newton is not a perfect match with teams that run a West Coast offense.
• His inexperience running a pro style offense. Former Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert has the same issue, but Auburn's offense seemed even further from the NFL style than most spread systems.
• Even though some experts think character questions about Newton are overblown, at the very least we know about the stolen laptop and the controversy with his father asking for money from one college in return for his son's services.
• Newton's comments about wanting to be an "entertainer" and an "icon" had to turn off teams. Coaches want players studying only playbooks, not marketing plans. Couple that with the character question marks and you can see why teams would be hesitant.
In addition to those question marks, most teams in the first round have other valid reasons they could pass on Newton. Let's run down the list to see how Newton could be the guy spending most of Thursday night in the Green Room.