2011 NFL Draft: Whisenhunt, Newton, QBs

NEW ORLEANS -- NFL draft watchers perked up when a certain head coach made specific requests during Cam Newton's recent workout for scouts.

Ken Whisenhunt was that coach. His Arizona Cardinals pick fifth overall. They definitely need a quarterback.

What was Whisenhunt hoping to find out?

"That was an opportunity to look at some of those things, see if he could make a certain type of throw that you want to see with a certain technique," Whisenhunt said Monday from the NFL owners meeting.

The idea, in short, was to see how Newton would respond without a script.

"You want to get those questions answered as best you can, whether it's his drops to the types of throws to a whole different set of things you are looking for, outside of a controlled workout," Whisenhunt said.

Whisenhunt turned coy when asked specifically what he wanted to see from Newton. He did acknowledge physical similarities between Newton and Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback Pittsburgh drafted when Whisenhunt was a Steelers assistant in 2004. But he couldn't project whether Newton could become the same sort of player at the NFL level.

My feel on Arizona, Newton and the quarterbacks in this draft: The Cardinals will not see a prospect as safe as Sam Bradford or Matt Ryan appeared in recent drafts. As a result, Arizona will have a hard time using the fifth overall pick on the position.

The choices become more difficult if the lockout pushes free agency until after the draft. Teams cannot sign players or even know, for sure, whether some will become eligible for unrestricted free agency.

"Right now, you could say you have needs at every position because you don't know what is going to happen," Whisenhunt said.