Newton goes first, Bills get their man

Quarterback Cam Newton of Auburn University stands with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being...

Quarterback Cam Newton of Auburn University stands with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected as the first overall pick by the Carolina Panthers. (REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:57 PM ET

Will he be Cam The Man?

Or, Cam The Sham?

Only time will tell if Cam Newton, a rare physical specimen oozing with both special talents and question marks, will be a stud or a dud. A Peyton Manning or a Ryan Leaf. A Drew Bledsoe or a Rick Mirer. A Donovan McNabb or a Tim Couch.

Even in the moments after Commissioner Roger Goodell had stepped to the podium at the famed Radio City Music Hall in downtown Manhattan on Thursday night and called out the name of the defending Heisman Trophy winner as the first pick in the 2011 National Football League draft courtesy of the Carolina Panthers, the contradictions that swirl around and over the enigmatic Newton were on display for all to see.

Asked during a television interview what he would do on Friday now that he finally had been selected into the pros, Newton replied: Were going on vacation.

Getting away from it all already? Is that really the right thing to do? Shouldnt he be stepping more into to limelight to face his legions of critics, not duck away from them as he often did at Auburn University?

About 30 minutes later, as he sat wearing a powder-and-navy blue Carolina Panthers jersey on his head, Newtons tune had changed. Big time.

Im just want to get to work, he said, grinning from ear to ear. I cant wait to get down there and play with Steve Smith, DeAngelo Williams, Mr. Stewart.

Asked if this would finally put to rest all the on and off-the-field scrutiny he has faced in the past year, Newton replied: Its only started With this, the floodgates have opened.

There is no doubt that, in Newton, the Panthers are getting a play with skills rarely seen on a football field before. Having tossed 30 touchdowns through the air and galloping on the group for 20 more, he was a one-man wrecking crew for the Tigers.

But that does not take away the issues that continue to dog him during his march from college to the pros.

First off, many NFL management types wonder if his remarkable production in the college ranks can be translated into the pros, where reading defences is a priority and where scrambling quarterbacks always face the danger of being crushed by bigger, faster linebackers. Newtons playbook is about to swell, and there are no certainties that hell be able to digest the gobs of additional information in an efficient manner.

Off the field, there never really was a full resolution to the suggestions that he and/or his father were acting as college pawnbrokers during the college recruitment process. The NCAAs investigation did not result in a suspension, but that has done little to peel away the suspicion that there may have been some underhanded dealings going on.

Newton hopes all that talk will evaporate into the North Carolina night. In reality, he knows better.

To be honest, I'm so glad to be going to a place where the people running the team understand me and listen to me, he said. I couldnt sleep

thinking about going to a place that couldnt.

After Newton had been selected, the Denver Broncos acted quickly in scooping up sack machine Von Miller, an outside linebacker from Texas A&M who will be

counted on to provide havoc in opposing backfields.

That left the Buffalo Bills with a shot at the player many prognosticators ranked as the most talented player in the draft, 6-foot-3, 319-pound Alabama

defensive lineman Marcell Dareus.

In the weeks leading into the draft, questions had swirled regarding who the Bills might take with the No. 3 pick, their highest selection since they plucked Bruce Smith in the No. 1 slot almost two decades earlier.

While they had coveted Newton, they were now left to decide whether it was worth taking a shot on Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert or go for a guy

who has been described by many experts as an animal in Dareus, who instantly would improve their 32nd-ranked run defence.

In the end, they did the right thing.

If they werent sure about Gabbert, there was no reason to take a risk. At the same time, Dareus seemed almost giddy to be going to Buffalo, a

destination many around the league want to avoid.

When I went for my visit there, the fans were crazy, Dareus said. They were asking for autographs, they were getting their photos taken with me I

never thought there were as fans as crazy as those at (Alabama) but these people are.

As for the most shocking moves of the first round, those came courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars.

In a move that showed they are willing to sell the farm in order to have a shot at the Super Bowl this season, the Falcons moved up to the No. 6 slot to take speedy Alabama wideout Julio Jones. Not only did they surrender their No, 27 pick in the trade with Cleveland, they also gave up a second and a fourth round pick this year and a first and a fourth rounder in 2012.


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