Newton has the physical tools -- frame, arm strength, mobility -- teams covet, and he proved this past season he can play at a high level while dealing with the kind of adversity that comes with the territory for first overall picks. He flashes above-average accuracy when his footwork is sound but he is the definition of a boom-or-bust prospect. He played in a run-heavy scheme that simplified his reads and signaled plays in from the sideline. It doesn't mean he can't be successful running a pro-style offense. It just means that he faces a steeper learning curve. Inconsistent footwork causes him to miss the strike zone too much, and he needs to do a better job of keeping his eyes downfield when forced to move around. Finally, there are the polarizing intangibles. Some question his maturity and ability to win over the locker room at the NFL level, while others point to his record as proof that he's an effective leader. He led his team to a juco championship two years ago and led Auburn to the 2010 FBS championship.
Carolina is a team with a lot of needs and could not pass on someone the Panthers feel should be the face of their franchise. They are desperate for a QB who can produce because their offense was the worst in the NFL. Matt Moore probably will not be back, and that leaves Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike as the Panthers' only other real QB options. As a result, Newton probably will be forced to play early. But if there is a silver lining, this has been a pretty good running team, which can help take some pressure off him early. This is the ultimate roll of the dice. This could be a great pick to turn the franchise around or set the Panthers back for five years.
Miller is the best edge rusher in this class. He has elite burst to turn the corner and impressive flexibility to bend back inside, and he closes on the quarterback in a flash. Miller has active hands to keep blockers off his frame, he can set blockers up inside and counter inside. He has some trouble against the run at times, but he has the toughness and upper-body strength to set the edge against tight ends. He also has the versatility to drop into coverage or rush from a two- or three-point stance, and he showed at the Senior Bowl that he is athletic enough to hold up in space.
Fixing the defense is the top priority for John Elway and the Broncos were last in sacks a year ago with only 23. What is interesting is that they are making the transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4 and now have two undersized pass-rushers in Elvis Dumervil and Miller. Look for Miller to play OLB on first and second down because he can drop into coverage, but his best attribute may be in the Broncos' nickel package as an upfield rusher off the edge. Much like the New York Giants, this gives them some interesting versatility in their up front pass rush.