Fantasy Football 2014: Who to Draft, DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart?

Tyler HornerCorrespondent IIJune 10, 2014

Carolina Panthers' DeAngelo Williams (34) reacts with teammate  Jonathan Stewart (28) after Williams' touchdown run against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)
Bob Leverone/Associated Press

For many football fans, long forgotten is the "Double Trouble" moniker that running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart were known by when they were one of the league's most prolific rushing tandems during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. 

In just those two seasons, Williams and Stewart combined for 4,601 rushing yards and 48 total touchdowns, alleviating the concern that running backs in timeshares could not be feasible fantasy options. 

Drafting both players gave fantasy owners consistent production because if one didn't score a touchdown, the other was bound to, and in many games, both scored at least once. 

"Double Trouble" was all the rage in 2009.
"Double Trouble" was all the rage in 2009.Chuck Burton/Associated Press

However, since the 2009 season, both have struggled to maintain their elite fantasy numbers after battling multiple injuries and losing red-zone touches to quarterback Cam Newton and fullback Mike Tolbert. 

I'm here to tell you that, at a time where both are likely to be overlooked in your league's draft, you should buy low on these backs in 2014. 

The Panthers have beefed up their offensive line by adding rookie guard Trai Turner, and the return of left guard Amini Silatolu from injury completes an interior offensive line that should be one of the league's best in the rushing game with Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil leading the young group. 

Center Ryan Kalil is the glue that holds together the Panthers offensive line.
Center Ryan Kalil is the glue that holds together the Panthers offensive line.MIKE MCCARN/Associated Press

Also helping the cause is a decline in Newton's rushing attempts, which were down 13 percent last season. Expect that trend to continue as the team looks to keep its star quarterback out of harm's way. 

These factors make both backs solid flex options in 12-team leagues, and obviously increasingly valuable in deeper leagues. But which is the better option for your team in 2014? 

Common sense says that Williams should be your manhe's the starter after all, and he's missed only one game in the past three seasons compared to Stewart's 17 missed games in the past two seasons alone. Let's take a deeper look before we jump to that conclusion, though. 

Take note that Williams is now 31 years old, while Stewart is a tender 27 with just 63 percent of the career rushing attempts as Williams—a big difference at a position with the shortest shelf life in the NFL

Williams has suffered more wear and tear on his body than his teammate Stewart.
Williams has suffered more wear and tear on his body than his teammate Stewart.MIKE MCCARN/Associated Press

Stewart has apparently been looking as healthy as ever in OTAs; according to Carolina Huddle's Jeremy Igo, "There is no sign of any hesitation in his running." This is a great sign as he is coming off of a torn MCL suffered in December. 

A full-strength Stewart could be just what the Carolina offense needs to regain its footing after finishing in the bottom half of the league in total points and yards gained in 2013. 

Williams won't be counted on to be a workhorse and Tolbert is a designated short-yardage back, so if Stewart can make the most of his opportunities early on, he could see a career-high number of carries in 2014. 

An increase in carries bodes well for Stewart's rushing efficiency as well; he averaged 5.1 yards per carry in 2009 when he rushed a career-high 221 times compared to just 3.8 yards per carry last season, when he was receiving less than 10 carries per game before injury prematurely ended his season. 

Apparently, Stewart likes to settle in with a handful of carries before he does his best workhe averaged just 2.7 yards per carry in the first half of games last season and 4.7 in the second half. 

Stewart could burst out of the shadows with an impressive fantasy performance in 2014.
Stewart could burst out of the shadows with an impressive fantasy performance in 2014.MIKE MCCARN/Associated Press

I'm not arguing that Stewart is a surefire fantasy starter, but when you're looking for flex options, you have to take calculated risks if you have any hopes of winning your league title. Williams may be the safer choice but Stewart has the better upside in 2014, and between the two teammates, he should be your pick.