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Carolina Panthers eyeball Auburn quarterback Cam Newton in the draft

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, throwing for trainer George Whitfield earlier this month, might land in the NFC South.

Associated Press

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, throwing for trainer George Whitfield earlier this month, might land in the NFC South.

INDIANAPOLIS — First-year coach Ron Rivera isn't sure which player the Panthers will take with the No. 1 overall pick.

But he is certain they need a franchise quarterback, particularly since the Panthers can't win an arms race in the NFC South with the Saints' Drew Brees, the Falcons' Matt Ryan or the Bucs' Josh Freeman.

Which means the Panthers are eyeballing Auburn QB Cam Newton.

"You look at all three of those teams and all three do have franchise-type quarterbacks, and I think if there is something that has to happen, we've got to identify that and come up with our own," Rivera said. "Then I think we've got to prepare ourselves to be ready to take this challenge on."

The Panthers drafted Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen in the second round last year. As a rookie, Clausen completed 52.5 percent of his passes for 1,558 yards with three touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Newton, the Heisman Trophy winner, will work out Sunday at the NFL scouting combine. Rivera said he is one of about 10 players the Panthers are considering as the first pick.

"As far as skill set goes, the young man has tremendous physical talent," Rivera said. "He's got natural size and the ability to run. He's got a tremendous arm, and he's got a pretty good pocket presence already. I think he's well on his way, but again, we've got to go through that process. We're going to be at his workout, we'll bring him in and visit with him and go through that whole process of trying to get a feel for what he does know and how well he'll learn."

FEELING A DRAFT: GM Mark Dominik says the Bucs are in a prime position (picking No. 20) to be active in trade talks on draft day. Two years ago, Tampa Bay selected 19th overall but traded up two spots to take Freeman.

"We're going to let the draft come to us, kind of like we felt it did the second and third day in Tampa (last year)," Dominik said. "I like where we're at. … It's been an active spot for trades over the years, at that No. 20 range. So I think it will give us the ability to either sit still or … move up or move back. But it's always been a good spot to pull a deal if you like to."

Channeling JOE NAMATH? Jets coach Rex Ryan, whose team has been defeated the past two seasons in the AFC Championship Game, says he's not crying wolf this time.

For the third year in a row, Ryan said his Jets will win the Super Bowl. This time, he guarantees it.

"The fact is I thought we'd win it the first two years," Ryan said. "I guarantee we'll win it this year. … I know we're an excellent football team. … I know the kind of players we have, and I know the kind of players we're going to have represent us."

Carolina Panthers eyeball Auburn quarterback Cam Newton in the draft 02/24/11 [Last modified: Thursday, February 24, 2011 11:02pm]
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