"I want to go No. 1," the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback told Deion Sanders in an interview that will be shown as part of NFL Network's pre-draft coverage Thursday. "I mean, I ain't gonna sit up here and lie to you."
A growing consensus has the former Auburn star going to the Carolina Panthers with the top pick, but he isn't about to call himself the best player on the board.
"There's a lot of great players in this year's draft. And you got to look at yourself," Newton said. "And you ask yourself: What makes me different than a Patrick Peterson? What makes me different than Von Miller? What makes me different than a Nick Fairley? Marcell Dareus? Blaine Gabbert? All those guys are excellent athletes."
Newton has undergone considerable scrutiny in the months leading to the draft and taken his share of criticism from scouts and analysts. That's OK, he says.
"If I wasn't hearing that, if they weren't talking about me, then that's when I have the problem," Newton said. "... You know, I'm a hard-headed guy. (If) a particular person says if it's a hill right here, or it's the destination that I can't go to, I'm gonna stand at the end of that destination and say, 'Look, I told you I could do it.' "
He says the criticism doesn't bother him.
"It really doesn't," he said. "And as I look in the years past, it's always somebody. You know, last year it was Tim Tebow, this year is me. ... I'm not here to talk about that or say if it's not fair or unfair. You know, I'm just going to live my life. And the only thing that I can control at the end of the day is what I do."
What happens if Newton's name is the first one called Thursday?
"Man, it's going to be this big ol' bear that jumps off my back," he said. "Like, oh my god. Oh my god. Like it's here, man. They can't take that back."
And if it isn't?
"That still's going to be my drivin' force," he said. "'Cause I want to be the best, man."