As you rigorously prepare and research leading up to each fantasy football season, sometimes it’s fun to take a step back and look towards the future of the NFL. This feature is going to do just that, and while its focus won’t be fantasy related, maybe it sparks some thoughts for those of you pondering a keeper league strategy or something of that nature. The idea is simple: rank the top trade assets in the NFL (only including players at the skill positions on offense: QB/WR/RB/TE). Again, this has nothing to do with fantasy trades, this is in terms of how valuable these players are to their actual teams in the longterm. Yes, this means names like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will be left off since it’s my list. I’m sure there will be plenty of debate, as everyone’s picks are likely different. So sit back, and enjoy the ride!

USATSI_8768650_168381090_lowres

No. 10: Cam Newton — QB, Carolina Panthers

At the conclusion of his rookie season in 2011, Newton definitely would have topped this list. However, in years since, he’s remained consistent in some aspects of the game, while falling off in others.

Cam was a fantasy god in 2011, racking up 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns, combined with 706 rushing yards and another 14 touchdowns. 14 rushing touchdowns! I’m convinced that was a fluke. Newton has rushed for 5-8 TDs in each of the past three seasons, a number that seems much more attainable, while maintaining similar rushing yard totals.

We all know Cam can run the ball, though, and this season he may have to more than he wants with a depleted receiving core. But the big issue with Newton has been that his passing yards have dipped every season he’s been in the NFL — from over 4,000 as a rookie to just 3,127 last season. Albeit Cam played in only 14 games last season, missing the first two starts of his career, but he still threw for just 3,379 yards in a healthy 2014.

So why does Newton remain on this list? Simply put, he’s still young and possesses all the talent he needs to succeed in the right situation — Carolina just may never be that situation unless they vow to make some improvements.

Cam was a little banged up last season, so I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he can become a QB that throws for 4,000+ yards (and about 25 TDs) again and rushes for another 600+. This isn’t going to be that year, though.

The Panthers haven’t been very kind to their franchise player. Drafting Devin Funchess leads you to believe they have good intentions, but letting Steve Smith and Brandon Lafell both walk in the same offseason was a punch in the gut. To top things off, bad luck has taken over, and with Kelvin Benjamin sidelined for the season, Newton’s probably going to have to spend a lot of time outside of the pocket.

Although all of these factors combine to make Cam a less attractive fantasy piece this season, his long-term value as an NFL quarterback is off the charts. The fact is, Newton is a very strong pocket passer, his athletic ability running the ball is just added bonus. In other words, he wants to throw the ball, but if it’s not there, he has a whole different dimension to his game on the ground rather than forcing throws.

Given the right weapons, Cam could be the most dangerous QB in the league. If the Panthers are smart, they’ll give Newton what he needs to take them to that level — hopefully before somebody else does for Carolina’s sake.

Find me on Twitter @julianedlow

See below for more features from “NFL Trade Assets.”

Honorable mention: Jameis Winston/Amari Cooper