Jonathan Stewart (According to ESPN: Current ADP: RB44/118 overall)
Fozzy Whitaker (Current ADP: Undrafted)
Cameron Artis Payne (Current ADP: Undrafted)
Christian McCaffrey (Rookie 1st round pick, Current ADP: RB14/32 overall)
Christian McCaffrey/Jonathan Stewart:
The talented all purpose RB out of Stanford saw his NFL Draft Stock shoot up the boards after a great combine performance. It would seem the fantasy community is riding shotgun with this hype train, as he is currently the 14th RB coming off the board in fantasy drafts. His combination of elite open field elusiveness, WR route running skills and hands and game breaking speed validate the hype.
So what is causing him to fall to the 3rd round? It can be argued his thin 202 lb frame is a bit small for a feature RB in the NFL. Another argument is that incumbent RB, Jonathan Stewart, has a 235 lb NFL frame more suited for a full workload between the tackles.
But if that is truly the case, why hasn't Jonathan Stewart played a full 16 game season since 2011? Not to mention, McCaffrey's durability in college should be enough to debunk any workload concerns. He amassed 672 touches from scrimmage his final two years at Stanford while still averaging over 6 yards per carry (YPC). In comparison over the past three seasons, Stewart saw his YPC average steadily decline each season (4.6 YPC in '14,4.1 in '15, 3.8 in '16), registered 684 total touches and missed three games each year.
In fact, why should Stewart have any claim to being the lead back for the Panthers? He has ran for over 1,000 yards once in his career (2009), brings nothing to the passing game (8 receptions last year) and has the aforementioned durability issues.
The only place I see Stewart effecting McCaffrey's fantasy value would be near the goal line. His frame is built strictly for goal line work at this point in his career. Other than short yardage work, this should be McCaffrey's backfield.
This running back by committee does include one more name that should significantly impact the fantasy ceiling of these RBs... Cam Newton. The Panthers have never had a 1,000 rusher with Cam Newton under center. The 2015 MVP is still the most dangerous dual threat QB in the NFL. Although he posted career rushing lows in carries, yards and TDs last year, he will still get his number called inside the five yard line on occasion.
McCaffrey wasn't taken #8 overall to play second fiddle to the likes of Jonathan Stewart. The involvement of Stewart remains to be seen, but unless he finds the endzone 10+ times (which is unlikely with the likes of Cam still vulturing TDs), I don't see him having a ton of value unless McCaffrey gets hurt. Stewart has been the team's feature back for the past two seasons and has not made a significant fantasy impact. His time to have a breakout fantasy season has come and gone.
McCaffrey will have an added bump in PPR formats, but the Panthers have never heavily involved their backs in the passing game. In fact, Panthers RBs have combined for a total of 95 receptions over the past two seasons. Admittedly, they have never had a receiving threat like McCaffrey as an option out of the backfield, but it will be interesting to see how they get him involved in a passing attack that struggled last season. With Cam and JStew limiting McCaffrey's workload and TD potential, he is coming off the board right where he should in PPR formats.
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