Even after Cam Newton's record-setting rookie season, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock says he'd still take Andrew Luck over the Panthers' quarterback if the two were in the same draft.
During a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Mayock initially balked at comparing Luck to the last three No. 1 picks - Newton, Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford - and to Matt Ryan, who went third overall in 2008.
Mayock then said Luck is close to Peyton Manning in terms of ability, adding he would draft Luck over the player who broke Manning's rookie passing record.
"I would probably take him over Cam, yeah," Mayock said.
Luck, the presumptive No. 1 pick of the Indianapolis Colts, has been called (by Mel Kiper Jr.) the most-complete quarterback prospect since John Elway, and might have been the Panthers' pick had he entered the draft after his redshirt sophomore season.
Instead, the Panthers selected Newton, who broke Manning's record with 4,051 yards and finished with more rushing touchdowns (14) than any quarterback in league history. Though Mayock had Blaine Gabbert ranked ahead of Newton for much of the pre-draft process, he said Newton had a "mind-boggling" rookie season.
"And they will continue to build around him," Mayock said. "The question is how well will NFL defenses adapt to what Carolina did a year ago and will Cam Newton continue to work as hard as he needs to to stay ahead of that curve?"
Mayock, who will lead the NFL Network's combine coverage beginning Feb. 23, had interesting takes on a couple of prospects from the Carolinas. Mayock said:
South Carolina wideout Alshon Jeffery is not among his top four wideouts and could fall on draft boards if he does not run a 4.5 or better in the 40.
"If you start seeing 4.6, 4.65, it's going to be a problem," Mayock said of the 6-4, 229-pound Jeffery, whose weight could be an issue.
"Let's put it this way - big and fast is good; big and slow is bad," Mayock said. "If he comes in at 235 and runs well, nobody's going to say a word. But the bottom line at either the combine or the pro day he has got to run well."
He is not a fan of North Carolina defensive end and top-10 prospect Quinton Coples, who did not play well until late last season.
"He looks the part. He's pretty. He's got all kinds of ability and he's going to remind a lot of people of Julius Peppers," Mayock said. "That all sounds pretty good. But I'd be scared to death. He did not play well or hard as a senior."