Panthers look poised to make Newton their man

I read a good article by Charlotte Observer columnist Scott Fowler, a former colleague of mine at the Miami Herald and one of the keenest journalistic voices in the industry.

In his column, he expresses why the Panthers should draft Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, despite some of the concerns that make him appear to be less of a sure thing than Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez, or even Josh Freeman.

While I have no vested interest in who the Panthers select, Fowler makes a great point that shouldn't be lost regarding the team drafting a quarterback first overall -- at this time last season, we were told that then Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen might be the most pro-ready quarterback in the draft.

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Even after Clausen was bypassed in the first round by teams that could have used him and ultimately drafted by Carolina in the second round, there was a widespread belief that he was equipped to play and succeed fairly early in his career. We saw Clausen didn't quite live up to those expectations as a rookie.

I do think Clausen is getting treated somewhat unfairly in hindsight, because not all of his failures were his fault. That said, I've talked to enough of the right people who feel pretty certain that the Panthers don't feel Clausen is the long-term answer at quarterback.

Here's the point -- the Panthers have done and will continue to do their due diligence on Newton and other players they could select No. 1. They haven't been distracted by free agency or offseason workouts, and, with the lockout, have made the draft their priority. If there are enough concerns about a player, they will pass.

Right now, all indications are that Newton is their guy. Unlike Clausen, he's viewed more as someone who needs to develop at the pro level. There's no problem with that projection. You never know, but we saw what happened in Carolina with a player who was supposed to be pro ready.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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