Analyzing Jonathan Stewart’s 2012 Fantasy Value
DeAngelo Williams received a big payday before the 2011 season, ensuring he would remain the starting running back of the Carolina Panthers. But as we’ve grown to learn via Carolina’s offense, that certainly doesn’t mean he’s necessarily the first back that should be coming off of fantasy football draft boards.
Heading into 2012, things are no different. Jonathan Stewart is still second to Williams on Carolina’s depth chart, but his role is still arguably better and more reliable. The two rotate on early work, Stewart is used more often on third (and passing) downs, and is also the go-to running option near the goal-line.
Stewart has a rare blend of size, speed and power that makes him a very interesting fantasy choice in 2012 – even with Williams seemingly in his way. However, with his talent and the role we’ve seen the past couple of years, there’s reason to suggest Stewart could put up rock solid RB2 numbers.
The past few seasons, Williams and Stewart have been neck and neck for carries, but Stewart started owning Williams in receptions and receiving yardage last year, when he racked up 47 catches for 413 yards and a score.
That means they’re both getting borderline RB2 touches, and Stewart is getting RB1 PPR value. Without a doubt, that gives him the slight edge in fantasy talk, and some improvement in the rushing touchdown department could potentially put his value over the top.
We know the dude can score. He kicked off his still young career with back to back 10-touchdown seasons. Injuries and an inconsistent offense have held him down to just six rushing scores the past two seasons, but when you consider that their quarterback (Cam Newton) rushed for an insane 14 touchdowns as a rookie in 2011, Stewart’s drop in end-zone dives makes a ton of sense.
Newton was sensational last year and I have no concerns about him improving. It’s for that exact reason why I see his own rushing scores plummeting significantly, as he progresses as a passer. With this likely to happen, the Panthers could turn more toward their running backs near the goal-line, as well.
New fullback Mike Tolbert also figures into the mix, but I like Stewart’s chances to see a spike in running scores this year. Add up his decent role, threat as a receiver and expected increase in red-zone production, and you’ve got a very solid RB2 with considerable upside – especially when you consider Stewart is playing in a contract year.