The NFL is the most fluid and unpredictable of all the major United States sports leagues in terms of teams improving or declining from one season to the next.

One player could quickly change the fortunes of a struggling franchise.

The Carolina Panthers, picking first in the 2011 draft, chose Auburn quarterback Cam Newton with the hope that he is indeed the man who will lead them back to prominence. The 21-year-old reigning Heisman trophy winner will be under intense scrutiny by critics who argue he is an inherently running QB who will have extreme challenges mastering the complexities of the position.

Some of the criticism leveled against Newton is borne out of long-held stereotypes of highly athletic black signal callers. Some of it has been blatantly bias personal attacks, partly the result of unproven allegations that his father, Cecil Newton, Sr., solicited money from college coaches and boosters in exchange for his son attending the respective school they represented.

Nevertheless, the Panthers’ shot callers did their due diligence and came away convinced Newton has the qualities and character to be a star. The Giants believe their two high draft picks could also be major difference makers.

Although their primary goal was acquiring an offensive lineman and linebacker at the top of the draft, the Giants could not forego selecting cornerback Prince Amukamara from Nebraska at No. 19 overall and defensive lineman Marvin Austin from the North Carolina with the 52nd overall pick Both were viewed as high first round talents entering the draft.

Austin was suspended for his senior season for engaging in improper contact with an agent.

“We did a lot of work on him,” said Giants senior vice president and GM Jerry Reese of Austin. We couldn’t pass him up.”