Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart has yet to play this season as he works his way back from offseason surgery on both ankles, but he will reportedly return to practice this week with an eye toward being ready for Week 9 against the Atlanta Falcons. The Panthers have a short week ahead of a Thursday night matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Stewart is not expected to be in uniform and it’s unclear if he would have had a chance to play even if it were a normal week.
DeAngelo Williams has performed solidly so far this season (434 rushing yards) and Mike Tolbert has three touchdowns over the last two games (two rushing, one receiving), but Stewart is virtually certain to have a prominent role in the Panthers’ backfield when he returns to action. Should fantasy football owners consider adding him?
Stewart had at least 761 rushing yards in each of his first four NFL seasons (2008-2011), highlighted by 10 touchdowns in both 2008 and 2009 and career-highs in carries (221) and yards (1,133) in 2009. But an ankle issue limited Stewart to nine games last season, and he set career-lows across the board (93 carries for 336 yards and one touchdown; 3.6 yards per carry).
Stewart is likely to be eased back into action once he takes the field, and there’s no guarantee he’ll ever be 100 percent healthy this season. Williams will remain in the mix for carries long as he is healthy, and Tolbert still lingers as a goal line vulture to further frustrate fantasy owners that attempt to predict how Carolina’s running backs will be used. But I still think Stewart is worth adding and stashing for owners that need running back depth in 12 and 14-team leagues, due to his potential to be a significant contributor when it matters most and the dearth of available running backs that have his upside.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.