Time for Carolina to draft Newton's backup

February, 21, 2014
Feb 21
10:00
AM ET
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has started all 49 games of his NFL career. He's missed only a couple of snaps due to injury, and the few other times he's given way to backup Derek Anderson were at the end of runaway wins.

Anderson has thrown only four passes the past three seasons -- none this past season.

This is not the norm. Only eight other quarterbacks have started every game since 2011.

In other words, the Panthers have been lucky.

Not to project any bad luck on Newton, but eventually you have to figure "Superman" will get injured for at least a game or two in the next couple of seasons.

I say this because it may be time for Carolina to draft a quarterback to groom behind Newton, something it hasn't done since the former Auburn star was taken with the first pick in 2011.

Since 2006, the Panthers have drafted only two other quarterbacks -- Jimmy Clausen in the second round and Tony Pike in the sixth round in 2010 -- and neither is on the roster now.

They considered drafting Russell Wilson as Newton's backup in 2012, but he went to the Seattle Seahawks in the third round before Carolina was willing to pull the trigger.

That turned out well for Wilson and Seattle.

Nothing against eight-year veteran Anderson, who is a free agent, but maybe the Panthers should spend a little time at the NFL combine evaluating some of the quarterbacks expected to go in the later rounds of this year's draft.

There aren't many who will match Newton physically (6-foot-5, 245 pounds), but there are some who pose more of a running threat than Anderson.

Not that it's essential that the backup have the same skills as the starter. Nick Foles certainly can't run like Michael Vick, but his 27 touchdown passes and league-best 119.2 rating as Vick's replacement were good enough to earn a trip to the Pro Bowl.

At the same time, having a backup who can do many of the same things as the starter could be a plus because it would require little adjustment to the offense. That's why Wilson was under consideration.

I'm not suggesting the Panthers shouldn't re-sign Anderson, either. It's hard to replace experience, particularly at a key position if the starter goes down.

But there are several quarterbacks with Newton-like skills who may be had in the late rounds. Clemson's Tajh Boyd (6-2, 220 pounds) has been projected by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. as being available in the fifth round.

His final game in the Orange Bowl definitely was Newton-like. He passed for 378 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown.

That game alone may get Boyd drafted higher than the Panthers are willing to use a pick on.

But there are others who may be available, from Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas to South Carolina's Connor Shaw.

General manager Dave Gettleman comes from a New York Giants organization that often kept only two quarterbacks, and the Panthers kept only two this past season.

But after three years of defying the odds with Newton, it may be time to draft a backup who could at least be placed on the practice squad.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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