I'm not convinced the Carolina Panthers will take a quarterback at No. 1, and I think that's the prevailing attitude. But I'm still fairly skeptical about that.
I feel very strongly that Carolina would love to get out of the first pick, leverage it, let somebody come up and take Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert, drop down three or four spots and still land a quality player and multiple picks.
Say they take Dareus or Peterson, Newton likely falls to Cincinnati at No. 4. If the Bengals also pass, that opens up a whole different question because I think Gabbert would be ticketed for Arizona at No. 5, and then you're going to ask, "Would San Francisco take him at 7?" I think Tennessee certainly would have to look at Newton at No. 8, as would Washington at 10. Those are the viable options in the top 10 for Newton.
Newton is an immensely gifted kid physically. Forget about his running skills; his throwing mechanics are vastly superior to Tim Tebow or Vince Young, to use two other athletic examples. His throwing mechanics are there. His throwing mechanics within a non-spread system are not.
You have to give this kid a chance to succeed, and I think the way you do that is you put him in a comfort zone, and you don't just go, "He'll have to learn our system, end of story." I think what a team will need to do with Newton is slowly integrate their system, but give him a group of plays within that system -- plays he's comfortable with and can give you a chance to win football games while he's developing.
So, what do you want to do with Newton if the Panthers do take him? Even when he's under center, you have a good run game in Carolina, you want to go play-action, you want to roll him out, you want to give him a pass-run option, you want to give him a half-field read so as he's rolling to his right and he only has to read high to low on half of the field as opposed to sitting in the pocket and reading progressions from outside in or inside out on both halves of the field.
It's the same way with just about any college spread quarterback. You want to try to simplify it first, but you also want to take advantage of his extraordinary talents.
I think Vince Young was Rookie of the Year for a reason -- because the Titans took advantage of what he did well. Now, he didn't continue to develop like he needed to, and that's the whole core of the issue, I think, for Newton. He has got everything you want. He's smart enough; he's a great athlete. It all comes down to this: How hard is this kid willing to work? Does he want to be the best quarterback in the NFL or does he just want to be pretty good?