Cam Newton is a legit MVP candidate for the 13-0 Carolina Panthers. With 3,062 yards passing, 28 touchdown passes and seven rushing scores, Newton can create multiple issues for opposing defensive coordinators due to his unusual size (6-foot-5, 248 pounds), 4.5 speed and freakish skill set. In short, he's the league's premier athlete at the quarterback position, a player who jumps off the tape.
But while Newton makes his money playing quarterback, we started thinking about the other positions he could play. No joke. Think about his frame compared to players at other positions, and consider what kind of an athlete we're talking about. He's really a one-of-a-kind player. Newton running routes at the tight end position? Sure. That's a matchup issue for the defense. What about the former Heisman Trophy winner rushing off the edge as a defensive end? Again, he's easily a physical fit at the position, and with combine numbers that rival today's outside linebackers and apply to multiple positions on the field, Newton could cash out in this league playing a variety of spots in the lineup.
Sticking with that thought, here are five positions where Newton could affect NFL game plans and make plays. Would it happen overnight? Of course not. But take the athlete and apply the skills elsewhere. From that tight end spot to dropping down in the box as strong safety, Newton could probably do it all. Let's get into it.
With 4.59 speed and a 35-inch vertical jump, Newton could play the tight end position in today's game as a "move guy." Similar to the Seattle Seahawks' Jimmy Graham (6-foot-6, 250 pounds, 4.56 speed, 38.5-inch vertical), this is all about creating a matchup in the passing game based on alignment. Newton wouldn't be that old school, on-the-line tight end who blocks down in the run game. Nah. Forget about that stuff. Go find a backup long-snapper to do that. With Cam, you want to put him in situations where his skill set takes over.
Think about Newton on the seam route versus two-deep coverage (matched up with a middle linebacker), running the slant from the backside of a 3x1 formation (versus a cornerback/safety) or creating room to make plays on the deep corner route out of a slot position. In short, you want Newton to win isolation matchups with his size and speed. That allows him to gain leverage and win at the point of attack. Remember, the tight end can be almost unstoppable in the red zone on the fade route. Toss it up and let Newton climb the ladder. Go get it, big fella. That's another six.
When you break down the tape, Newton (3,051 career rushing yards, 40 career rushing touchdowns) is already the NFL's best short-yardage runner because of his body control and physicality at the point of attack. I mean, who really wants to square this guy up in the hole on third and short or on the goal line? That's why we see the Panthers use the zone-read, the QB power and the inverted veer to put the ball in Newton's hands during critical game situations and red-zone scoring opportunities. Now think about Newton as a traditional I-formation back running the power schemes or as zone runner out of the pistol or shotgun alignments.
A comp there? Maybe it's former New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs (6-foot-4, 264 pounds) on the downhill runs (with more speed) or former Tennessee Titans star Eddie George (6-foot-3, 234 pounds). Newton already has the lateral ability in the open field (4.18 short shuttle time) and the acceleration to push the ball up the field, and he isn't shy about dropping his pads under the chin of a defensive back. Plus, if the core running schemes in the NFL don't quite work out for Newton, then put him in the gun and run the Wildcat offense all day long. Either way, Newton -- with the ball in his hands -- is a weapon. And he has the frame to take on hits at the pro level.
Defensive end/rush linebacker
Speed, length and athleticism off the edge -- those are the skills on the résumé of the top speed rushers in the NFL. Newton has 33 3/4-inch arms, his broad jump (10.5 feet) is ridiculous, and at 248 pounds, he has enough size to dip the shoulder to run through contact. Athletically, Newton compares to Seahawks' defensive end Cliff Avril (6-foot-3, 260 pounds), in my opinion. And while we can't expect Newton to bring that same electric first step that Avril has, I still see this as a possibility because of the skill set and measurables.
Now, Newton is still a little light in the can to be considered a true three-down player in a base defensive front. I get that. But as a rush end or an outside linebacker coming off the edge from a two-point stance in sub-package personnel (nickel, dime), I really believe Newton could get home to the quarterback. Get him back in the weight room, add ten more pounds and let him eat on the edge.
We've already talked about Newton creating matchups from inside at the tight end position, so why not bump him outside the numbers as a wideout? Think of a comp here with Panthers' teammate Kelvin Benjamin or Buccaneers' wide receiver Mike Evans. Back at the combine, Benjamin (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) ran a 4.61 40, jumped 32.5 inches and posted a short shuttle time of 4.39 seconds. For Evans (6-foot-5, 231 pounds), the former Texas A&M star ran a 4.53, jumped 37 inches and recorded a short shuttle time of 4.26 seconds. Those numbers compare well with Newton's measurables and times, and we have to focus on how both of these wide receivers win matchups in the passing game.
Think of inside breaking routes (curl, dig, post, slant) or the quick fade outside the numbers. Newton would have the size and leverage to box out the defensive back or to play the ball at the highest point. Wide receivers with a big frame are always a tough matchup in the NFL on routes that break back to the middle of the field and in the deep red zone. Newton on the skinny post versus man coverage? No doubt. He's going to win that one.
I don't like the idea of Newton playing on top of the numbers in the deep half as a Cover 2 safety, but what about dropping down into the box as a Cover 3 defender or playing as a "rover" in defensive sub packages. Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor is the first comp here that comes to mind because he has massive size and length for the position (6-foot-3, 231 pounds, 33-inch arms). Plus he is a thumper on the field. Catch the ball in front of Kam? You are going to get lit up. As I mentioned before, Newton has a pretty good short shuttle time, but don't look past the three-cone time. Back at the combine, Newton ran a 6.92 three-cone (7.00 seconds is good time for defensive backs). That's just awesome at 248 pounds. And it also tells us that Newton can play in space. Come downhill and deliver a big hit? Why not. He already runs through 230-pound defenders -- you really think he's afraid to tackle a 210-pound back?
Maybe Newton would be the next Chancellor or even the next Steve Atwater. Watch out.
The super freak
We all know Newton isn't going to change positions after the Panthers signed him to a contract extension of $100 million-plus dollars to win games at quarterback. He throws one of the best deep balls in the NFL and he is a total nightmare to plan for. There's a reason that Newton is the front-runner to bring home the MVP award this year.
But we also can't deny that Newton is one of the top athletes -- at any position -- in the NFL. With ultra rare measurables, high-level testing numbers and supreme talent, Newton is a true super freak on the field. Catch the fade, run the sweep, sack the quarterback and lay out wide receivers on crossing routes from the safety position? Yep. He could do all of that and more.
ESPN.com analyst Matt Bowen played safety for seven seasons in the NFL. Follow him here.