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Mixed Reviews for Auburn’s Newton and Fairley at NFL Combine

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A week ago it looked like even money that Auburn would make history by having two players from the same school taken with the first two picks in the upcoming NFL draft. After this week's NFL Combine in Indianapolis, that dream looks dead.

Watching weekend coverage from Lucas Oil Stadium the Combine reminds you of a stripped down episode of Survivor. Watching guys run straight lines in succession followed by measured long jumps is not exactly late-night on Cinemax.

But in a weird way, the event was entertaining. It was one of those events that you flip on for a few minutes and end up staying for hours. The allure is hard to explain, kind of like watching an episode of Saved By The Bell.

The Auburn duo of Nick Fairley and Cam Newton received mix reviews. Both deserve credit for showing up considering Fairley's main competition, Da'Quan Bowers of Clemson skipped the workouts because of a meniscus tear in his right knee.

Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, considered by some to be the top quarterback in this year's draft, refused to participate in the passing competition. Newton pledged to face the challenge head-on, regardless of the outcome.

Maybe he should have followed Gabbert's lead.

In completing just 11-of-21 passes, Newton looked anxious at times, perhaps even pressing a bit. While the playing field is even for all participants, throwing to receivers you're not familiar with guarantees inconsistencies.

That's the primary reason Gabbert skipped the exercise. Throwing to Division III Mount Union receiver Cecil Shorts is a lot different from playing pitch and catch with Darvin Adams. Add in the seven-step drop back and this is no easy day at the park.

"He was off on some of his accuracy," said Newton's throwing coach George Whitfield.

"With some regularity and more work, he can correct that. I'm just really proud of him for coming out today. He didn't score a knockout. But at least he put on the gloves. Some guys didn't."

Newton was tops among quarterback in the broad jump, hitting the 10'6 mark. He followed that up with a vertical jump of 35.0, which was fourth best.

His 40-yard dash time of 4.59 ranked third behind Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor (4.51) and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick (4.53).

One important thing Newton did was clarify his much ballyhooed comments about being an entertainer and an icon.

Talking with the NFL Network, Newton acknowledged he could have used better wording, but said he was referring to his role on the business side of the sport, talking about commercials and apparel deals. He came off credible in his remarks.

With Newton's Pro Day workout coming later this month, along with numerous face-to-face meetings with individual teams, the impact of the NFL Combine on his draft stock may be minimal.

The Carolina Panthers, who hold the first pick, still plan to take a hard look at Newton according to ESPN's John Clayton. He also says Buffalo (third pick) and Tennessee (eighth pick) are in the mix.

Want another opinion? Sports Illustrated's Peter King has Newton going to the Bengals with the fourth selection. See a trend here? It's apparent no one knows where he'll end up the evening of April 28th.

For Fairley, things are more complicated. A month ago, he was the consensus pick among draft experts to be taken first overall.

Then he shrunk.

According to the numbers provided by the NFL, Fairley fell from 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds to 6-3, 291. That raised a few eyebrows among league general managers.

According to ESPN draft expert Todd McShay, teams don't like their lineman that lean.

"Not many teams are in love with sub-300-pound defensive tackles, and while Fairley is clearly light in order to run well, his frame isn't as long as expected and we wonder how much bulk he can safely add," McShay writes.

"This doesn't mean Fairley is free-falling or anything close, but it's something to consider as part of the evaluation process."

SI's King has dropped Fairley down to the eighth pick, going to the Tennessee Titans. While there's no question he'd like to go first, having an opportunity to work with former Auburn defensive line coach and current Titans assistant Tracy Rocker has to be appealing.

Fairley clocked a 4.82 in yesterday's 40-yard dash, edging out Alabama lineman Marcell Darius who posted a 4.92, but is 28 pounds heavier and the same height. Draft experts can compare numbers all they want, there's no comparing Fairley and Darius in real life.

Did we learn anything new from this phenomenon called The NFL Combine? Maybe a little. Whitfield said it best, when he called the event, "a pop quiz."

The final examine comes March 8th at Auburn's Pro Day event.


Watch The NFL Scouting Combine Feb 24 - Mar 1 on the NFL Network.