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2011 NFL Draft: Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert's Competition, Makes It Official

It's official: Cam Newton is headed to the NFL. The Auburn Tigers QB made his intentions known on Thursday announcing he would be leaving school early to enter his name into the 2011 NFL draft.

"This decision was difficult for me and my family," Newton said. "After talking to Coach Chizik and Coach Malzahn, I think it is best that I make that next step in my career and forgo my senior season and enter the NFL Draft. It was a very hard decision for me, especially after coming off the great season we had at Auburn. I'm blessed to have been around an excellent environment and have great teammates, coaches and support from the Auburn family. "It's been a blessing for me to be a part of something so great," Newton said. "Any time you win games it's a big deal, but for this school to win a BCS National Championship, what a way to make people happy. Auburn is a special place that I can call home." 

He's also Blaine Gabbert's competition. Both players will be competing to be the first quarterback off the board. With Andrew Luck staying at Stanford, the first QB off the board is a wide open race right now. Gabbert, along with Newton, Ryan Mallett and Jake Locker are names being thrown at the top of the draft.

Newton didn't have one of those performances in the National Championship game that will vault him to the top. JaMarcus Russell in the Sugar Bowl and Vince Young in the Rose Bowl are two performances that come to mind when wondering about guys vaulting to the top of draft boards. Newton didn't have that type of day so likely we won't have a front-runner until the NFL Combine in late February.