Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart has only played 15 games in the last two seasons due to knee and ankle issues, and lack of production in that time (516 rushing yards, 24 receptions and two total touchdowns) has made him worthless to fantasy football owners. A fully healthy offseason brings some hope for this year, but Stewart has some work to do to become worthy of attention from fantasy owners again.
Stewart reportedly looked good during OTAs, which by itself is not incredibly noteworthy outside of his emerging completely healthy.
The past two seasons make it easy to forget that Stewart had a productive run from 2008-2011, including an 1,100-yard season (2009) and two seasons with 10 rushing touchdowns (2008 and 2009) over that time.
Stewart is still just 27 years old, and when he was completely healthy from 2008-2011 he averaged 4.8 yards per carry (more than 5.0 yards per carry twice in a season).
The Panthers are again likely to run the ball a lot this year, but DeAngelo Williams (201 carries in 2013) and Mike Tolbert (101 carries last season) are still in the mix for carries. Oh and let’s not forget Cam Newton, who had 111 rushing attempts last year and led all quarterbacks in red zone carries (18).
Leaving aside the last two injury-marred seasons, however briefly, Stewart has still only topped 200 carries in a season once in his career (2009). A bigger workload may increase any injury risk attached to him fairly substantially.
The risk attached to drafting Stewart is greatly diminished this year on the heels of the last two years. So much so that he looks like a potential late steal in drafts and auctions, and it would only take an injury or serious signs of decline from Williams for Stewart to see a starter-level workload. There are a lot of worse ways to spend a final auction dollar or use a final draft pick in 12 and 14-team leagues.
Bye Week: Week 12
Projected Round: 12th Round
Auction Value: $1 (ESPN.com)