Counting Down the Top 25 Players in the NFC South: No. 12, DeAngelo Williams

Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterJuly 18, 2012

Almost half of DeAngelo Williams' yardage last season came on running plays of 15 yards or more.
Almost half of DeAngelo Williams' yardage last season came on running plays of 15 yards or more.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Welcome back to “Counting Down the Top 25 Players in the NFC South.” To see the entire list as it unfolds, scroll down to the bottom of this page. To see the rules and ranking criteria, click here.

There wasn't a more potent backfield in terms of running the football in 2011 than that of the Carolina Panthers with the trio of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Cam Newton.

All three rushed for at least 700 yards and ranked in the top five among NFC rushers in yards per carry, Newton with 5.6 yards per carry and both Stewart and Williams with 5.4.

Setting aside Newton at quarterback, Williams is the bell cow in Carolina and has been since the 2008 season when he carried the ball 273 times for 1,515 yards. Since then, as long as Williams has been healthy, he's been the featured back in Carolina. But in 2011 the distribution of carries was closer than it'd been in some time.

Williams carried the ball 155 times last year compared to Stewart's 142. Two of the distinguishing factors were the seven touchdowns from Williams (Stewart had four) and the breakaway ability of Williams.

Williams' long carry was 74 yards last season with Stewart's a 32-yard scamper. According to Pro Football Focus, 48.2 percent of the yards Williams amassed last season came on his 14 plays of 15 yards or more. Stewart posted 31.9 percent of his yardage from big plays.

As long as both Williams and Stewart are in Carolina, and healthy, both will get their fair share of touches. Stewart is better equipped to catch the ball out of the backfield while Williams can turn a big play more frequently on the ground. It's a perfect combination of efforts.

How will new fullback Mike Tolbert alter the backfield dynamic?


The 2012 Bleacher Report Top 25 Players in the NFC South List

12. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers

13. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers

14. Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints

15. Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

16. Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons

17. James Anderson, LB, Carolina Panthers

18. Jahri Evans, OG, New Orleans Saints

19. Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Atlanta Falcons

20. Jon Beason, LB, Carolina Panthers

21. John Abraham, DE, Atlanta Falcons

22. Charles Johnson, DE, Carolina Panthers

23. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

24. Curtis Lofton, LB, New Orleans Saints

25. Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Top 25 List (by team)

Carolina Panthers: 5

Atlanta Falcons:  3

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 3

New Orleans Saints: 3


Top 25 List (by position)

LB: 4

DE: 3

WR: 2

RB: 2

OG: 1

QB: 1

TE: 1