Jonathan Stewart has been a popular early round gamble for years. He led many to fantasy titles in 2009 and has had a stud running back buzz surrounding him since he was drafted 12th overall by the Panthers in the 2008 draft. He came into a situation with a veteran in place in DeAngelo Williams. But just like Williams had done before Stewart’s arrival, it was assumed by many that they would share touches until Williams’ contract expired and then the Jonathan Stewart show would take center stage.
Not so fast, immediately after the lockout was lifted before the 2011 season, the Panthers inexplicably signed Williams to a long-term deal. To compound matters, Cam Newton was significantly better his rookie year than most expected. In so doing, he took over the team’s goal line duties. All of a sudden, the former guy-in-waiting, Stewart, who seemingly was just waiting to be a fantasy 1st round pick became a committee back without touchdown upside. The sort of production one would expect from a Pierre Thomas or Shonn Greene. Not exactly the future stud his owners expected, right?
Well, it’s been a frustrating 14 months, but the GM that gave Williams that ridiculous deal has been terminated. Stewart has been given his own extension. There are rumors everywhere that Williams will either be traded before Thursday’s deadline or cut this offseason. The team is scrapping the zone read scheme from the first half of the season in favor of a more traditional scheme, and Stewart is set to takeover the feature role.
Knowing this, we should expect the fantasy community to be all over Stewart, right? Wrong. In fact, he is being dropped in some leagues. Yeah, dropped! The numbers haven’t been there to start the season, but everything is falling into place for a strong finish and owners everywhere have put him on the ‘ignore list.’
This is your buying opportunity, Stewart’s coming off another uninteresting performance but it was against one of the best run defenses in the league, the Chicago Bears. The schedule is about to get very friendly for the Panthers very quickly, as they only face two Top 15 run defenses over the next six weeks. He went off in a similar opportunity, in a worse situation, in 2009 and not much as changed as far as Stewart is concerned. He’s still in his physical prime and is surrounded by significantly better talent than he was that year.
The finish may be rough vs. two Top 10 run defenses in Oakland and San Diego, but this is your key to the fantasy playoffs. While others get complacent and ride it out with Alfred Morris, Stevan Ridley, and Frank Gore types this is the meal ticket that is going to dominate.
He might not have been dropped in your league, although given what fleaflicker, MFL, ESPN, and Yahoo are saying, he is available in some leagues. But his owner probably doesn’t see him as a solution, just depth. Take advantage and get him on your roster as he carries you to the playoffs.