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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Cam Newton Overtakes Blaine Gabbert, Tabbed As No. 1 Pick

It’s been difficult to separate which of the top-four quarterbacks in the 2011 NFL Draft — Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett — will come off the board first, with Gabbert the consensus best-available pick up until now. But Cam Newton’s physical tools have left analysts salivating and his potential has many tabbing him as the No. 1 overall pick in various 2011 NFL mock drafts, even leap-frogging Gabbert.

On Monday, SB Nation joined the many speculating the Carolina Panthers will take Newton, projecting his as the No. 1 in its latest 2011 NFL mock draft. Despite an NFL Combine performance that left much to be desired, Newton’s star-power is, apparently, too much to ignore.

As much of a risk as Blaine Gabbert might be with the first overall pick, Newton is a significantly bigger one. His star power, however, may be too hard for the Panthers to pass up – and the idea of a division featuring Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Josh Freeman and Newton is incredibly enticing.

The risk is great, and Newton has a significant transformation to undergo before becoming a capable starter, much less a star in the NFL. Newton is in the midst of evolving as a quarterback, working on his ability to drop back in a pro-style offense after running a spread-offense at Auburn. It requires a different skill-set and sound mechanics, with growing pains sure to come along the way. At the Combine, those growing pains were on display for Newton.

But the pick is about more than football. Newton gives the Panthers a face, and perhaps a star. Though his statements at the Combine were considered arrogant by many, it’s clear Newton embraces the spotlight and wants to be the star of the show — an entertainer and an icon. So while tabbing him as the No. 1 pick may be a reach, it’s unlikely Newton slides out of the top-10 as his potential wins out, outweighing the risks.

For the latest on the draft, check out our 2011 NFL mock draft StoryStream.