stewart-ball2

Truth talk: even at a younger age when I didn’t sit and type eight hours a day for a living and instead my job at the time was to babysit mushrooms (no, really), I would feel sore after a round of golf. This in turn led to shame, because 75 year olds would hack around, and they showed no ill effects from the act of walking and swinging a golf club for four hours. In hindsight, there’s a simple explanation for this: sucking a lot was very much a part of my game, and in those early days of a fleeting golf career, I likely swung on average twice as much as those elderly folk during a round.

Anywho, the point here is this: for those who either haven’t played or don’t play much, golf can be a physically taxing game. Especially if you really suck, and especially if you don’t wimp out like a little baby and take a cart. But healthy individuals should still be able to endure a full round of the walking and the swinging, before nursing any wounds (to your pride and elsewhere) in the clubhouse.

Jonathan Stewart is not a healthy individual.

Last week Stewart was scheduled to play in a charity golf tournament, but he had to pull out at the last minute due to his still lingering ankle issues. Not even being able to walk for four hours isn’t a good look for a guy who’s paid to run into human brick walls.

To use a reserved and understated word, 2012 was a disappointment for Stewart. He missed seven games, and in the games when he was on the field, he pretty much wasn’t actually on the field. Limited by his ankle problems, Stewart rushed for 336 yards at an average of 37.3 yards per game, and 3.6 per carry. Ugh.

Then two ankle surgeries came during the offseason, which is problematic because Stewart only has two ankles. He’s been diligently rehabbing like a good little running back, which included working out last Wednesday despite missing the golf tournament in question. Still, head coach Ron Rivera wasn’t exactly brimming with optimism when asked if Stewart will be ready for training camp.

“We’ll see,” Rivera said. “He’s been rehabbing and working with our trainers. We’ll see once we get to the 25th.”

We’ll see indeed, Ron. It would almost be better if Stewart had suffered a setback which kept him from participating in a basic physical activity like golf. But now, this is just where he’s at, and this is your Jonathan Stewart circa 2013, ladies and gents.

Until we’re given some reason to believe that he can function in a normal capacity and be even half of what he was in 2009 when he scored 10 touchdowns, Stewart shouldn’t be targeted in any fantasy draft. Maybe as a late-round flier to stash for depth, but nothing beyond that.

If anything, our cold and cruel fantasy minds have been given just a touch of clarity as Stewart continues to struggle with being broken. If he was healthy, the Panthers’ backfield would revert to its default murky state. Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, and Mike Tolbert would platoon in a woefully unpredictable split, and even high-upside rookie Kenjon Barner could also steal some carries.

Now one name has been removed (at least temporarily), though for fantasy relevancy it’s still Williams or bust. I’ll go with bust, and stay a safe distance away from this impeding explosion.

Looking solely at the surface layer, Tolbert’s seven touchdowns in 2012 make it seem like he’s a sort of decent flex play or bye week fill-in. But he scored three of those in one game, and his 183 rushing yards in 2012 were a steep decline from his production in San Deigo (1,225 yards between 2010 and 2011).

Sure, his usage could and should change under new play-caller Mike Shula after he received 54 carries last year to Williams’ 173. But with Stewart still wonky, Williams is the only relevant fantasy option, and if you can get him at his current 10th-round price, there are far worse weekly flex plays. He still has breakaway speed even at his advanced age (30), which he used to burst away for five carries of 20 yards or more despite moderate usage. Those long gallops also included a 65-yard carry.

Just be prepared for staggering disappointment. Cam Newton is primarily used as the Panthers’ goal-line running back, and of Williams’ 737 overall rushing yards last year, 210 of them came during Week 17 against the woefully inept Saints run defense (28.5 percent of his rushing production). You know, the one that ranked 32nd while giving up 147.6 yards per game.

If you can, just say no.

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *