Count Jon Gruden among those who believe in Cam Newton.
Gruden, a former NFL coach and current ESPN analyst, put the Auburn quarterback through passing drills Friday and came away impressed, telling The Tampa Tribune "I think Cam Newton's the best player in the country."
"I agree with the Heisman Trophy people that gave him the award," said Gruden, the famously quarterback-minded ex-coach of the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "He's got everything I'm looking for."
But do the Carolina Panthers, who own the No. 1 overall pick, agree with Gruden? Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Friday that the team is beginning to narrow its candidates for the top selection in the April 28-30 draft.
Newton has met with the Panthers and hopes he makes the cut.
"To some degree, I'd like to go No. 1," Newton said after the 20-minute workout at the University of South Florida. "The most important thing is to come out each day and get better. That's what I can control. ... I can't control where I get picked."
Gruden's praise of Newton came just days after coach Marvin Lewis, whose Cincinnati Bengals own the No. 4 pick, backed the quarterback's credentials. Lewis said Newton is "a real fine NFL prospect" who has "kind of had that 'it,' been that kind of guy for awhile."