Truth be told, it is the norm for high-profile draft prospects to excel in their staged individual workout sessions. That said, I can't imagine any prospect shining much brighter than Cam Newton did Thursday morning in his workout in front of three dozen media members at a posh high school in San Diego.
"That was phenomenal," said former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, now an analyst for ESPN. "If [NFL] scouts saw this workout, they'd have been slobbering."
The 45-minute workout session included 33 throws, which, as Dilfer pointed out, had a high level of difficulty, based on timing, depth and circumstance. Newton completed all but seven of them, and three of those seven were dropped passes. "None of these were easy throws," Dilfer said. "He wasn't hitching. He wasn't waiting."
The workout was unique. Most quarterbacks projected to go in the first round don't stage workout sessions for the media, especially QBs transitioning from a spread-style offense (such as the one Newton played in under Gus Malzahn with the Auburn Tigers) to a pro-style approach, and especially not in February -- two weeks before the NFL combine. However, to address any skepticism, Newton relocated to the San Diego area to work with private quarterbacks coach George Whitfield to polish his skills. And because the results have been so positive over these three weeks, Whitfield was eager to provide the media with a "snapshot" of his development.
"Cam's whole feeling was there have been other big-time quarterbacks -- [Tim] Tebow, Vince Young -- that have come out, and there has been so much mystery around the offense they played in, their mechanics and, 'How is this stuff going to translate?' Cam just said to himself, 'Not me. I'm going to come right out front and center,'" Whitfield said, referring to Newton's workouts as his pre-SAT exam.
While there was little doubt about the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder's playmaking skills -- the same ones that enabled him to run away with the Heisman Trophy and lead Auburn to its first national title in over 50 years -- there is plenty of skepticism about Newton's ability to transition to a pro-style offense. After all, the track record of quarterbacks going from college spread offenses to the NFL is a spotty one, and the jury is still out on the two NFL QBs to whom Newton is most frequently compared: Young and Tebow. Meanwhile, guys who played in pro-style offenses in college, or at least did most of their work from the pocket, have had early success in the pros. Matthew Stafford is one recent example.