The Carolina Panthers went from a 15-1 season with one of the league’s best rushing attacks to a putrid 6-10 season in which the running game was almost invisible. Now the Panthers made the interesting choice to draft Christian McCaffrey with the eighth overall pick in the NFL draft.
McCaffrey was put into a situation where there was already a workhorse back in Jonathan Stewart. Now the hype surrounds Christian McCaffrey but the question remains, is Jonathan Stewart a worthy fantasy running back?
Red Zone Work
The one advantage that Jonathan Stewart holds over Christian McCaffrey is his ability to work in the red zone, now that Mike Tolbert is gone and there is no real competition other than Cam Newton for red zone work. Christian McCaffrey will definitely help with the passing game in the red zone but if the Panthers are looking for a primary red zone running back, then Jonathan Stewart is the guy.
In fact last season, all nine of Jonathan Stewart’s rushing touchdowns came inside of the 20-yard line. Along with the fact that the Panthers want Cam Newton to throw the ball more than he has in his career, Jonathan Stewart should see most of the work inside of the 20-yard line which could lead to double digit touchdowns for the veteran.
Short Yardage Work
The Panthers won’t cut out Stewart’s workload altogether but it does seem more likely that Christian McCaffrey will be the feature running back in the Carolina offense. According to training camp and media reports, Jonathan Stewart’s carries will come in short yardage situations. Mainly he’ll be used in third and short situations while gaining some carries on first and second down to give McCaffrey a break while prolonging his career.
Now it is true that Jonathan Stewart hasn’t played a full season since 2011 when Deangelo Williams was still on the team and the dual running back scheme worked in Carolina. Now that Jonathan Stewart is out of his prime and there is a new primary back in Carolina, the Panthers will look to utilize Stewart to the best of his abilities to prolong his career.
Jonathan Stewart fantasy football value
Jonathan Stewart holds interesting fantasy value this upcoming season. While McCaffrey is clearly the lead back and the much better choice for your fantasy team, Stewart will still play an important role in Carolina’s offense this season. The Panthers have the 16th easiest schedule in the NFL this season and Stewart has the chance to stay healthy and take advantage of the opportunities given to him.
He should be owned in every league and is a quality flex play week one against the San Francisco 49ers. As the season progresses we’ll see how McCaffrey adapts to the work he’s given, but in the meantime Stewart is a quality fantasy running back and he should be started while he’s getting his reps.
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