Why Jonathan Stewart Is the NFL's Rookie To Watch

Emery SongerCorrespondent IIAugust 3, 2008

When the NFL Draft was in its final stages, many fans began to wonder, "Who will be the most explosive rookie next season?" And most came to the same answer: Darren McFadden.

He is more than deserving of being in that conversation. He was the most explosive player in college football last year and finished second in the Heisman for the second consecutive year. He may be the best-built running back in the rookie class, and he can run as fast as anyone.

There is just one problem with this rookie—he has competition.

Justin Fargas had a breakout year last year before he sprained his MCL in Week 15.  Now, I'm not saying that Fargas will be the starting running back all season long, but since McFadden can be of use in the slot as a receiver, and also as a return man, they may not give him much of the load right out of the gate.

So, who really is going to be this year's Adrian Peterson?

Well, no one will double what Peterson did last season. But there is one player that will come out of nowhere and surprise everyone.

And his name is Jonathan Stewart.

Drafted 13th overall by Carolina, this young back was immediately in a competition with the undersized DeAngelo Williams. And with DeShaun Foster out of town, and head coach John Fox's love for big, bruising backs, this rookie fits in perfectly.

Williams' only real downfall is his size, as he is a gifted runner. But Fox loves to use his lead runner as a wrecking ball and pound him between the tackles. And this bruiser showed he could have success with that last season at Oregon.

But wait, there's more!

He can also get up and go on you. Once he breaks it outside, it's off to the races. Just think of the bruising of Larry Csonka with the foot speed of Willie Parker. This kid is ready for action. Throw in a pretty potent passing attack and there should be room for him to run.

John Fox will use this rookie to no extent, even if he elects to have Williams start at the beginning of the season. You can expect close to 1,000 yards and plenty of goal-line opportunities for this young gun. And watch out when the Panthers are playing a below-average rushing defense. This workhorse could put up monster numbers.

That is why you should watch Jonathan Stewart before you watch Darren McFadden. Will McFadden be a star in this league? Yes, of course he will. But who will have the better rookie season? Stewart, without a doubt.