If the NCAA investigation into Cam Newton concludes (or concludes in the somewhat near future, anyway) with the Heisman front-runner ruled ineligible for the 2010 season, it's likely going to cost Newton a lot: his Heisman chances, his team's shot at a BCS title, possibly his chance to play in an SEC championship game, various other sundry awards and honors that are surely on their way.
If there's any silver lining to a possible NCAA-dictated suspension, it's that eligible or not, Newton will be free to play in the NFL as soon as he leaves Auburn. But that's where the scandal has already cost him something: the benefit of the doubt with NFL scouts :
One director of scouting for an AFC team said Tuesday that Newton will be a first-round pick should he decide to skip his senior season but added that not every franchise will be interested because of his off-the-field issues.
“There are going to be questions about the kid,” said the scout, who requested anonymity. “You’re going to want to sit down and do a lot of interviews with him, because he never makes a check or a call at the line of scrimmage. He gets everything from the sidelines, so all that stuff is going to be new to him.
“We’ll want to see how smart he is, and then there is the naive part. He let his dad pick his school for him and all this kind of stuff. If this situation gets really bad, there might be teams that just don’t want the PR nightmare.”
Of course, the scout makes clear that things can only get so bad for Newton from an NFL standpoint; even if "not every franchise" will want to take a flyer on a prospect with Newton's off-field baggage, if the scout is correct that Newton won't slip out of the first round, even going 32nd overall isn't a bad consolation prize by any means. The scout describes Newton as a "big ball of clay" with an "NFL body" whose ability to shed tacklers and deliver throws could make him a "matchup nightmare" in the "right system." Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the scout's comments is that between his first-round stock and the inevitable eligibility questions that will dog him, it appears highly unlikely that Newton will want to spend another season under the microscope at Auburn .
The scout does, however, also worry that Newton could fall in with "the wrong crowd" or be overly influenced by his father Cecil Newton , who (as you know) has been accused as negotiating Newton's enrollment at Mississippi State in exchange for money. Nothing other than acing his eventual pre-draft interviews will make those question marks go away, and for that, Newton has the investigation to thank. That much damage, it appears, has already been done.