NFC South top 25: No. 4

We continue our series of my projected top 25 players in the NFC South for the 2012 season with No. 4:

Cam Newton, quarterback, Carolina

What he did in 2011: The lockout didn’t seem to hurt Newton’s rookie season at all. He passed for over 400 yards in each of his first two games. He also became the first rookie to throw for 4,000 yards and Newton made some plays with his legs. He was the obvious choice of Offensive Rookie of the Year. The only knock on Newton was the Panthers finished 6-10. It’s important to note that was a four-win improvement over the previous season. It’s also important to note that Carolina’s defense gave the offense almost no help last year.

Why he’s No. 4 in 2012: A lot of people are speculating Newton could be hit by “the sophomore slump." I just don’t see it. He’s had a full offseason with his coaches this time. I’m not quite ready to put Newton in the same category with Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning just yet. But there’s no denying his potential appears limitless. What we saw out of Newton last season might have been only a preview of things to come.