Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC South [Print without images]

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
What Newton needs to do at his pro day

By Paul Kuharsky

Cam Newton
Scouts will be looking at more than just Cam Newton's physical skills during Auburn's pro day.
A good share of the NFL scouting world descends on Auburn, Ala., today, and while Nick Fairley and Darvin Adams will draw plenty of eyeballs, the headliner is unquestionably quarterback Cam Newton.

He’s a prospect who figures to be in play for six of the top eight teams in the draft, including the Tennessee Titans at No. 8.

Scouts and personnel executives will expect to see improvement from his combine performance, where he did not throw with accuracy (just 11-of-22 passing against no defenders) or with authority. His footwork while dropping back and his throws to the left are areas that can improve dramatically from the combine.

This time, he’ll have familiar receivers and environs.

But he’d be wise to consider that everyone there will be looking at more than his workout.

“Cam just needs to be humble and act like one of the guys during his pro day, and not separate himself from the rest of his teammates,” one scout said. “He will do a good job physically during his workout, because that is what he does best. Worst case, he has an entourage, tons of family and makes this day -- Auburn’s pro day -- just about him. This will continue to make people believe he is an individual and not a team guy.”

I was really struck by that, but it makes sense. There is a year’s worth of Auburn tape and the combine workout to study and break down. Another workout will be another small piece. But the final decisions on him could be less about his physical gifts and more about just who they’d be drafting.

Cam Newton
Cam Newton struggled at times at the combine in Indianapolis, but will be in familiar environs during Auburn's pro day.
New rookie pay scale or not, do you want to invest in him and make him the face of your franchise if you don’t have a sure-fire read on his football commitment and his determination to put in the work? I take that scout's comment as a strong indication that such questions linger.

Newton’s pro day workout will be tailored to him. His quarterback guru, George Whitfield, is expected to run it and it will be more controlled than the one at Lucas Oil Stadium. Whitfield will want to show Newton can make all the throws and do everything, but he’ll also accentuate the positive and de-emphasize the negative to show off his guy.

I’ll be one of plenty of people watching the workout, which will be telecast on ESPN3 and the NFL Network.

“The pro day will influence most fans more than it influences most front offices,” said Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. “…He could have a lights-out workout and wow fans but most teams will put it in the proper context.

“Can he show teams he's progressing? Sure. Newton appears to have made strides in terms of his footwork and he needs to continue to progress in that area because it affects his accuracy. However, any progress needs to be taken with a grain of salt because there's no pass rush forcing him to move around. To be clear he has great mobility. No one I've talked to questions that. But he needs to do a better job of getting his feet set after he's forced to sidestep interior pressure or step up to avoid pressure off the edge. In addition, he'll be throwing against air, which won't test his ability to read coverage and anticipate. Both are concerns because of the scheme he played in at Auburn and his lack of ideal experience.

“I will admit that a player as physically gifted as Newton can win over the hearts of NFL decision-makers and it only takes one team in the top five to 10 to fall in love for him to come off the board that early. That's obviously the best-case scenario, but again these teams have already seen him and what he can do, so he's either already won a team or teams over or he's unlikely to do it at his pro day.”

Even if Newton is high on his outs as he was in Indianapolis, his biggest chance to shift important opinions will come when he goes on tour. Teams can have 30 players in for pre-draft visits, and teams that believe they’ll have a crack at Newton are sure to have him in for what should be telling interviews and white-board sessions.

Another important note about today: While scouts spent time at Auburn during the season, they weren’t looking closely at Newton because he was a junior and they weren’t having the extensive conversations with people there about him because the focus at that time is on the pool of seniors.

“I think this workout will be important for the scouting community just because this will be the first time scouts will have a chance to question the Auburn coaches on Cam, and find out all the background: how he learns, how he is in meetings, at practice, etc.,” the scout said. “This is where scouts make their money, digging with the individual’s sources at a school.”