NEW YORK — If Cam Newton decides to be one-and-done at Auburn and enter the NFL draft, he probably won’t have to wait long to be taken.
Longtime NFL personnel man Gil Brandt, now working as a draft consultant, called Newton “the most exciting player I can ever remember watching” and said the 6-foot-6, 250-pound quarterback has displayed all the physical skills necessary to be an NFL star.
“I am not an advocate of guys coming out of school early,” Brandt said in a recent telephone interview. “But I think that if he does come out of school, I don’t think there’s any question he’ll be selected in the first half of the first round (of the draft) unless there is something physically wrong with him.”
Newton, to no one’s surprise, won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night in a landslide. He put together one of the most impressive seasons ever for a college quarterback, displaying a wide array of skills.
Early in the season, Auburn leaned heavily on Newton’s ability to run. He had a string of four straight games against Southeastern Conference opponents in which he ran for more than 170 yards.
He’s as big as most linebackers so he’s able to run over and through tacklers. He’s also nimble and fast enough to run away from defenders.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young, who was drafted with the third overall pick in 2006, might be a good comparison, but Newton outweighs him by about 20 pounds and is an inch taller. Young seems to be faster, but the scouts with the stop watches will ultimately find out exactly how fast Newton can run.
Still, NFL quarterbacks can’t make a living running the ball. In the second half of the season, as Auburn’s opponents became more intent on stopping Newton in the running game, he passed more.
The results were encouraging. The junior has completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,589 yards and 28 touchdowns with only six interceptions.
“He has excellent accuracy,” Brandt said. “I’m amazed at his accuracy whether it be 10 yards down field or 20 yards down field or more. He’s got arm strength.
“There is no question he is physically ready.”
Brandt said the only thing Newton doesn’t have he can only get by staying in school for another season: experience.
After Newton and Auburn play Oregon in the BCS championship in Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 10, he will have started a total of 14 college games.
“When I guy gets to around 30 games in college, that usually is when the light turns on,” Brandt said.
Two reasons why Newton might not stay:
—If he’s going to be an early first-round pick, it’s hard to put that off.
—The lingering cloud of an NCAA investigation into his recruitment out of junior college is still hanging over Newton.
The NCAA ruled that his father tried to get Mississippi State to pay for Newton to play for the Bulldogs. There was no evidence Newton knew what his father did or that Auburn was involved, so he was allowed to keep playing. But the case is not closed.
Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who finished second to Newton in the Heisman voting, is also facing a stay-or-go-decision as a third-year sophomore.
Luck has started for two seasons, has played in a prostyle offense under former NFL quarterback and Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh and is generally thought to be a lock to be drafted in the first few picks.
Luck, whose father, Oliver Luck, played in the NFL, said he’ll talk to his family and coaches after the Cardinal play in the Orange Bowl then decide whether to leave school early.
“I haven’t given it too much thought,” Luck said before the Heisman ceremony. “I am going to sit down with my parents and talk to coach Harbaugh, mostly likely friends, and see what’s best.”
The last player in Andrew Luck’s situation was Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, who won the Heisman as a third-year sophomore in 2008.
Bradford returned to school for another year, suffered a shoulder injury that wiped out most of his season, and still ended up being the top pick overall in the last draft.
Newton, of course, has said he’ll think about the NFL after the BCS championship game.
The NFL, though, is already thinking about him.
“The sky’s the limit for that kid,” Brandt said.