Jonathan Stewart | RB | Carolina Panthers
2016 Stats: 218 carries for 824 yds, 9 TD; 8 receptions for 60 yds
For the third straight season in 2016, Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart missed precisely three games while his yards per carry and reception total dropped. Going back five seasons, he has missed 26 games over that span. The Panthers also drafted Christian McCaffrey, who has looked good in two preseason games, so Stewart’s fantasy stock is way down and he’s probably not really on the radar of most owners.
But one area Stewart has not fallen short in is touchdowns, with 15 rushing scores over the last two seasons and a total of 40 carries inside the 10-yard line in that span. Three two touchdown games helped him in 2016, and he was a top-10 fantasy running back in each of those three weeks. A season-high 132 yards was well-timed in Week 15, for those that took a chance he would do something in a crucial fantasy playoff week.
McCaffrey will take away some carries from Stewart, but his biggest effect as a drain to the fantasy value of his new teammates is in line to be as a pass catcher. Tight end Greg Olsen would be impacted most obviously, but there may be some domino effect to wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess. Stewart, on the other hand, has just 24 catches over the last two seasons and no more than 25 catches in any of the last five seasons.
Stewart should at least split early down carries with McCaffrey, and the two could be on the field at the same time if offensive coordinator Mike Shula has an imagination. When it comes to goal line work, Stewart should be the main guy if a reduction Cam Newton’s rush attempts is coming. From Week 9 on last year, Newton had two or fewer red zone rush attempts in every game while Stewart had at least three red zone attempts in six of those nine games. If that trend keeps up, Stewart won’t be vultured by Newton all that much.
In terms of average draft position (Fantasy Football Calculator), McCaffrey is a third-round pick in PPR (pick 3.04, RB13) and standard (pick 3.07, RB15) 12-team leagues. Stewart has a ninth round ADP(pick 9.02) in standard leagues (RB41), and an ADP into the 10th round (pick 10.o1, RB44) in 12-team PPR.
I’d rather bet on Stewart returning RB3 value, with a RB4 ADP, than draft McCaffrey as something close to a RB1 with far more downside potential. Stewart’s weekly startability will be hard to lock down, at least early in the season, but he’s hardly just a handcuff to McCaffrey for owners that want to go that route and he has standalone value that shouldn’t be dismissed.