Player investigation: Jonathan Stewart

I am about to fully focus on my upcoming live draft. This will be our first “unkeeper” year. The last time we decided to go full redraft, we did it a year early, so none of us have drafted knowing that every player on our roster will go into the pool next year.

My trio is pretty good. I have Philip Rivers, Matt Forte, and Andre Johnson. I also have the number two pick. Over the next two weeks I have to decide who to take.

One theory I’ve been pursuing is to trade down. I think the difference between the second and 10th running back (difference from picking number 2 and number 12) is less than the drop from the 1st WR to the 11th. A couple of QBs usually go in the second round, and a RB or two as well, so I’m probably going to get the 6th to 8th WR on the board. I’m not liking who might be available.

If I stay at pick number two, I’m going to get Brandon Jacobs or LT. LT looks good but I’m afraid of his late tendency of fading as we get to December. With Jacobs, he usually misses a few games and it’s possible that the Giants will be good enough to rest their starters at the end of the year.

I’m looking at Jonathan Stewart today. He’s the kind of back likely to be there at the end of the first round. Do I want him as my RB2?

Stewart came out of Oregon as the consensus number two rookie running back. He was last year’s Michael Crabtree, a heralded college performer coming off an injury. Stewart missed some time during his three years at Oregon. When he played, he was a big, fast back, the number one prospect heading into his freshman year of college.

In most of not all fantasy drafts, Stewart was taken ahead of DeAngelo Williams. Williams was coming into his third year and had not been able to wrest the starting job from DeShaun Foster. Remember when Foster was the RB of the future in Carolina? Williams became a fantasy supernova last year and Stewart wasn’t quite as good. Let’s look at last year’s numbers.

Ten touchdowns from a rookie running back is pretty good. He also had nine games of 15 carries or more. The 4.5 average on 184 carries was very nice. It was the consistency that kept him from being a good RB2. Seven double-digit games are not enough. He caught eight passes all year, and that number isn’t going to go up very much. I expect rookie Mike Goodson to play some third down, as well as Williams.

The death blow are the five games in which he scored a maximum of two fantasy points. If the Panthers get behind, they’re not going to have the carries for Williams and Stewart. Carolina, led by Jake Delhomme, attempted the fewest passes in the league last year. It’s hard to imagine that number going down.

It is possible that Stewart and Williams come closer to a 50/50 split, and Williams has missed some time due to injury. Either back would be a top five fantasy guy if an injury befell the other.

It looks pretty certain that Stewart is going to be drafted as a RB2 in our league. in the five zealot masters drafts he was the 22nd, 24th (3x), and 26th running back taken. I would say that if he doesn’t go in the first round he’ll be one of the few backs taken in the second. If I trade down to the tenth pick, say, I might be able to go with the top WR in the first and get him in the second. I’d have to get a heckuva wideout to do that. I’ll look into who those guys might be in the next installment.

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