NFC South: Tim Couch

Cam Newton wins Rookie of the Month

September, 29, 2011
9/29/11
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This one should come as no surprise. The NFL just announced that Carolina quarterback Cam Newton has been named the Offensive Rookie of the Month for September.

Newton
Newton
The No. 1 overall pick in the draft, Newton threw for 1,012 yards, the most ever by a player in his first three NFL games. He threw for four touchdowns and ran for two.

Newton threw for 422 yards in his debut, the most ever by a player in his first game. He followed that by throwing for 432 yards in Week 2.

Newton is only the third Carolina player to earn Rookie of the Month honors. Julius Peppers won the defensive award in October 2002 and Matt Moore won it for offense in Dec. 2007.

Sam Bradford (October and November 2010) and Tim Couch (October 1999) are the only other quarterbacks drafted No. 1 overall to be named NFL Rookie of the Month and Newton is the only one to earn the award in his first month of play.

Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan won Defensive Rookie of the Month.
I’m not trying to curb the enthusiasm in the Carolinas after the Panthers used the No. 1 overall pick in the draft on quarterback Cam Newton. It’s a move with huge upside and we’ll find out a few years down the road if it was indeed the right move.

However, there’s an discouraging statistic, courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau, that suggests Newton and coach Ron Rivera face an uphill battle. Since 1990, seven rookie head coaches have had the No. 1 overall pick and used it on a quarterback.

None of them has won a postseason game. Think Mike Nolan and Alex Smith in San Francisco, Dom Capers and David Carr in Houston, Marvin Lewis and Carson Palmer in Cincinnati, Chris Palmer and Tim Couch in Cleveland, Lane Kiffin and JaMarcus Russell in Oakland, Jim Schwartz and Matthew Stafford in Detroit and Steve Spagnuolo and Sam Bradford in St. Louis.

There seems to be hope for Stafford and Bradford to become successful quarterbacks. Carson Palmer had some good times in Cincinnati, but wants out of there and may get his wish. Other than that, all of the guys on the above list have flopped.

If you want to find a rookie head coach who used the No. 1 overall pick on a quarterback, you have to go all the way back to Jimmy Johnson. Back in 1989, he took Troy Aikman with the first pick, a move that helped the Cowboys become a dynasty for much of the 1990s.
At the risk of sounding like Cliff Clavin from “Cheers’’, here’s a little-known fact about Cam Newton.

When he was taken by the Carolina Panthers with the first pick Thursday night, Newton became a part of history. He became just the third player to win the Heisman Trophy, a national championship and be the NFL's No. 1 overall pick in the same academic year.

The only two guys who did that before Newton were Leon Hart in 1950 and Angelo Bertelli in 1944. That trivia comes to us from the fine folks at ESPN Stats & Information.

Here’s a little more from that same crew. Newton became the sixth SEC quarterback taken with the No. 1 overall pick since 1967.

The others were Georgia’s Matthew Stafford in 2009, LSU’s JaMarcus Russell in 2007, Ole Miss’ Eli Manning in 2004, Kentucky’s Tim Couch in 1999 and Tennessee’s Peyton Manning in 1998. The Panthers better hope Newton turns out to be more like the Mannings, or maybe even Stafford, than Russell or Couch.

Draft Watch: NFC South

April, 7, 2011
4/07/11
12:00
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NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: history in that spot.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers’ top pick is No. 1 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010 QB Sam Bradford (Rams)

2009: QB Matthew Stafford (Lions)

2008: OT Jake Long (Dolphins)

2007: QB JaMarcus Russell (Raiders)

2006: DE Mario Williams (Texans)

2005: QB Alex Smith (49ers)

2004: QB Eli Manning (Giants via Chargers)

Analysis: It’s still early, but indications are the Panthers are seriously considering taking a quarterback, and that probably narrows it down to Auburn’s Cam Newton and Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert. Part of the reason the Panthers are looking down this road is because they saw what the Rams got in Bradford last year. The early results from Bradford and Stafford have been encouraging. But Russell was a tremendous flop, and Smith hasn’t been much better. Manning is the only quarterback taken No. 1 overall in this time period to make a Pro Bowl. Even before Manning, the history of quarterbacks at No. 1 was shaky for a long time. Carson Palmer and Michael Vick have had some good years and some bad ones. David Carr and Tim Couch rank right up there with Russell. To find a quarterback drafted first overall who has been an unquestioned success, you have to go all the way back to Peyton Manning in 1998, and there were some people at the time who thought Ryan Leaf could be just as good. Long story short: there might not be such a thing as a surefire quarterback, even with the No. 1 pick.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers’ top pick is No. 20 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: CB Kareem Jackson (Texans)

2009: TE Brandon Pettigrew (Lions)

2008: CB Aqib Talib (Buccaneers)

2007: CB Aaron Ross (Giants)

2006: DE Tamba Hali (Chiefs)

2005: DE Marcus Spears (Cowboys)

2004: DE Kenechi Udeze (Vikings)

Analysis: The Bucs have been in this territory recently and have had tremendous results and one very big complication. The Bucs were at No. 19 heading into the 2009 draft, which was the first for general manager Mark Dominik and coach Raheem Morris. They feared missing out on a chance to get the guy they believed would be their franchise quarterback. That’s why they traded up to No. 17 and took Josh Freeman. You can’t question that move because Freeman single-handedly turned the franchise around last season. Even taking Talib at No. 20 -- and it should be pointed out that move was made by former general manager Bruce Allen and coach Jon Gruden -- brought some positive results. When on the field, Talib showed flashes of being one of the best young cover corners in the game. But the latest in a series of off-field troubles means Talib is probably on his way out of Tampa Bay. The lesson to be learned here is that you can get big-time talent in the draft but it’s wise to do your homework on the character and attitudes of players. It’s common knowledge the Bucs desperately need a defensive end. Look at Hali and Spears. They represent two ends of the spectrum. Hali came with some questions about being undersized but had no character issues, and he has turned out to be a solid pass-rusher. Spears came with some questions about attitude and never has panned out.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints’ top pick is No. 24 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: WR Dez Bryant (Cowboys)

2009: DT Peria Jerry (Falcons)

2008: RB Chris Johnson (Titans)

2007: DB Brandon Meriweather (Patriots)

2006: CB Johnathan Joseph (Bengals)

2005: QB Aaron Rodgers (Packers)

2004: RB Steven Jackson (Rams)

Analysis: Johnson, Rodgers and Jackson are proof that you can get a big-time player this late in the round. The Saints aren’t looking for a quarterback because they have Drew Brees. But running back isn’t out of the realm of possibility, and when you see that guys such as Johnson and Jackson have been available at this spot, it makes you wonder about the Saints taking a shot if Alabama’s Mark Ingram is there. Yes, defensive end and outside linebacker might be greater needs, so those positions are possibilities. Pierre Thomas re-signed, Reggie Bush is expected to stay and Chris Ivory is recovering from injury, but the Saints still have to think back to the end of last year when they basically ran out of running backs.

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons’ top pick is No. 27 overall. Here are the last seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: CB Devin McCourty (Patriots)

2009: RB Donald Brown (Colts)

2008: CB Antoine Cason (Cardinals)

2007: WR Robert Meachem (Saints)

2006: RB DeAngelo Williams (Panthers)

2005: WR Roddy White (Falcons)

2004: OLB/DE Jason Babin (Texans)

Analysis: Although nearly every draft guru is projecting that the Falcons will take a defensive end, it’s not out of the question that a wide receiver or running back could be the pick here. General manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith have talked a lot about wanting to add explosive players. If they look at their own history and the recent history of NFC South teams that have been in this spot, the idea of going with a receiver or running back could get stronger. Although it took some time for him to develop, White has turned into one of the game’s top receivers. Meachem also took some time and dealt with some injuries, but he has emerged as a force in the New Orleans passing game. Williams had some explosiveness as soon as he joined the Panthers.

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