Newton closing in on being second-tier QB

Cam Newton is a long way from being a top-tier NFL quarterback, but he's closing in on the second tier.

ESPN.com's Mike Sando asked 26 league insiders to grade every projected starting quarterback on a 1-5 scale, with "one'' reserved for the best and "five'' for the worst.

Newton graded out as the 16th best, ranking him at the top of the third tier and percentage points outside the second tier.

The overall grade for the first pick of the 2011 draft was 2.58. Philadelphia's Nick Foles took the last spot in the second tier at 2.56. Newton actually had the same number of second tier votes (12) as Foles.

San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick ranked just ahead of Foles at 2.50.

The top four quarterbacks -- Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, New Orleans' Drew Brees, Denver's Peyton Manning and New England's Tom Brady -- each graded out at 1.04. Indianapolis' Andrew Luck rounded out the top tier with a 1.50.

According to Sando, one general manager called Newton "phenomenal'' and someone he would pay to see play. "He is a little bit like Ben [Roethlisberger] in that he is so physical," one head coach told Sando. "But he is so inconsistent. I would say he is a three. Some days, he's a one. Some days, he's a five."

One defensive coordinator told Sando that Newton has "rare stuff."

"You don't worry about him getting hit like you worry about other quarterbacks,'' the coordinator said. "He would be at the top of the list for me as a three because he is not a rare thrower, but he has rare stuff. I could see him elevating to a two, and it might just be winning past the regular season."

Click here for a complete look at Sando's insider piece.