Newton to enter NFL draft – is he a first rounder?

Auburn Tigers quarterback Cam Newton enjoys his teams 22-19 victory over the Oregon Ducks in the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game in Glendale, Arizona, January 10, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Let the months of speculation begin.

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton has announced that he will forego his senior season and enter the 2011 NFL Draft. The Heisman Trophy winner finished his junior season with 2,854 passing yards, a 66.1 percent completion rate and 30 passing touchdowns to go with 1,473 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns.

Oh, and he also led the Tigers to a national championship victory over Oregon.

Now comes the fun and nauseating part: Where will he fall in the draft? Is he a clear-cut first round pick? Is he a top 10 pick? Is he even projected to be a quarterback at the next level?

Most people would undoubtedly answer “yes” to that last question, although some pundits believe Newton will have to make the transition to tight end in the NFL. He certainly has the arm strength and size to be a great quarterback, but can he succeed in a pro-style offense? Can he be a leader? Can he read a defense? Does he have the accuracy to make all of the throws in a NFL offense? How is his football IQ?

It only took one man to believe that Tim Tebow was capable of developing into a starting quarterback for a team to select him in the first round. Granted, that man (Josh McDaniels) is now searching for work, but that’s more because he managed to trade away his two best offensive players (Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall) in two years and gave away Peyton Hillis for a third-string quarterback in Brady Quinn. Only some people criticize him for trading away draft picks in order to select Tebow…

Getting back to Newton, he’s going to wow scouts with his athleticism in pre-draft workouts but he’ll have to convince a team that he has the intelligence and work ethic needed to become a quarterback in the NFL. Because if he can’t, then he’s going to fall in the draft and he may be forced to switch positions in order to make it at the next level.

In other Auburn-related news, defensive tackle Nick Fairley is expected to announce Friday that he too is foregoing his senior year and entering the draft. If that’s the case, there’s no question that he’s a top 5 pick.

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