Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis made the trip down south to Alabama to watch Auburn University quarterback Cam Newton and defensive tackle Nick Fairley during their pro day workouts. Carolina head coach Ron Rivera, Denver coach John Fox and vice president John Elway, Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur and defensive coordinator Dick Jauron were all in attendance.
Newton, who looked stiff at first, eventually calmed down and had a good day. He showed good mechanics, making sure he set his feet before throwing to stationary targets, and showed good anticipation, something many scouts and coaches were worried about based on college game film. According to Todd McShay, it wasn't Lewis who hit it off with Newton the most, though; it was John Fox and Arizona's Ken Whisenhunt.
The workout was scripted to include 55 throws but expanded to 67 as Newton and quarterback coach George Whitfield made a few extra throws of their own and took requests for specific throws from some of the NFL coaches in attendance. Fox and Arizona's Ken Whisenhunt in particular seemed to show the most interest and hit it off best with Newton.
Even though Newton still has some things to work on to make the transition from college to professional quarterback, he has obviously improved. He didn't look completely natural on every throw, but he was able to isolate the things he had done wrong and correct them throughout the workout.
For instance, Newton missed when throwing to the right on his first seam route of the day and immediately looked to his feet to figure out why he was off-balance. The next throw was a seam route to the left and I watched his feet as he threw, and I knew without looking at the ball that it was on target because be stepped correctly to the target and followed through properly.
It wasn't an error-free workout and he still doesn't look natural on every throw, especially in the short-to-intermediate areas, but overall it was a good day for Newtown. He showed he is coachable and is developing his skills. He doesn't have as far to go as a passer as Tim Tebow did prior to last year's draft and has clearly been working hard on the right things.
McShay says that Newton's accuracy and arm strength don't put him in an elite class of quarterback but his rare athletic ability should make any team feel comfortable drafting him in the top five.
As for Nick Fairley, McShay says he didn't disappoint and that he's more explosive than any 297-pounder should be.
Fairley only took part in position drills but wowed the scouts in attendance with his foot quickness during back work and agility during cone drills. His burst out of every cut and change of direction was remarkable. The three teams at the top of the board Carolina, Denver, Buffalo all have defensive line needs and Fairley clearly has the physical tools to be worthy of any of those picks.
Teams may shy away from Fairley in the top few picks because he only produced in college for one season and there are concerns about his ability to learn a pro defense as well as about his focus off the field. That didn't stop Carolina and Denver coaches from interviewing him after the workout, though.
He can be special if he matures and becomes a consistently hard worker, but those concerns could drop him as far as No. 8 overall to Tennessee. It's worth noting, though, that Jauron was in attendance. He is bringing a 4-3 defense with him to Cleveland and could use a potentially dominant 3-technique tackle like Fairley to anchor the middle of his scheme.
To sum things up, McShay quoted one scout that said, ""You can't tell me [Newton and Fairley] aren't two of the three best players in the draft, but you also can't tell me you'd be totally comfortable taking either at No. 1 overall if your job were on the line."