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February 10, 2011
Dilfer calls QB Newton a Top 3 draft pick

"He's as physically impressive a person as I've ever laid eyes on." That's Trent Dilfer's assessment of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, who had a media-only workout in the San Diego area today. Dilfer, the former 49ers quarterback who now works as an analyst for ESPN, positively gushed about Newton during a brief phone conversation this afternoon.

The first thing that struck Dilfer was Newton's stature. Newton was not weighed and measured at the event - that will come later this month at the scouting combine - but Dilfer said he was something to behold. "I'm 6-4, 240, and he makes me look like a sixth grader," Dilfer said. "Everything about him - his neck, his shoulder, his calves, his butt - was impressive."

With hall-of-fame quarterback Warren Moon coaching him today, Newton went through the quarterback route tree. Dilfer said the ball "just explodes off his hands." Dilfer said Newton was equal parts accurate and powerful and did "graduate level stuff" as far as anticipating throws, throwing receivers open and changing the velocity on his passes. Moon is helping quarterback guru George Whitfield prepare Newton for the combine.

Early in the session, Newton missed a couple of throws to his left, Dilfer said. One attempt was dropped. Another was overthrown. He said Moon stepped up and told Newton to put more weight on his left foot and lower his left shoulder. From that point on, Newton was flawless, Dilfer said.

I asked Dilfer whether he thought it would be difficult for Newton to transition from Auburn's spread offense to a pro-style system. He said he thought it would be a challenge, as it is for any shotgun-oriented quarterback, but not an issue because of Newton's skill level. Dilfer also noted that teams are operating out of the shotgun far more than they did even five years ago and that Newton can expect to make 50 percent of his passes out of a shotgun formation anyway.

Dilfer said he attended the event after studying Newton on film. Based on the film work alone, Dilfer said he thought Newton would go in the top third of the draft. After seeing him close up and speaking with him - "He was magnetic, engaging, stared you down when you first met him - very impressive" - Dilfer now sees Newton going much higher if he can reassure teams about off-field issues. Dilfer said he thought Newton and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert were Top 3 picks and that Newton could go No. 1 overall.

He also said the idea of media-only workout - pooh-poohed by NFL evaluators - was successful because between now and the draft people like him will be singing Newton's praises. "And we drive perception," he said. "I thought the whole thing was genius."

To watch a clip of Newton's workout, click here.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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