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There were a lot of rumors that DeAngelo Williams would find work elsewhere in 2011, but the Panthers broke the bank on Williams giving him a $43 million contract with $21 million guaranteed. That doesn’t mean anything good for Jonathan Stewart who should again find himself playing second fiddle to Williams.
Really, the Williams signing is a good sign for the Cam Newton era in Carolina. The Panthers have said they want a strong running attack to ease Newton along. In other words, they are going to run the ball until they can’t run anymore. Right now it is still unclear as to who will get the most carries in 2011 and who will do the most with them. Williams’ new contract makes it seem like he is a lock to be the starter and command the majority of the carries. That may be true, but it won’t change the fact that Jonathan Stewart scores the touchdowns, and Williams has played only 13 games in the past two years.
Stewart comes with his own injury concerns, but we would rather take our time and select him later in the draft and hope for his upside. Speaking of injury concerns, much of the blame for the inconsistency in the running game can be put on the inconsistency of the offensive line. When healthy, the Panthers have the premier run blocking offensive line in football. But they weren’t healthy last year and it showed in the running game. The only real question mark on the line would be Geoff Schwartz who would have trouble winning a starting spot on most offensive lines.
Still, if the line remains healthy we believe both Panthers running backs will be solid fantasy options yet again. Not only are they both incredibly talented, but the team will rely on the run even more than they already have. We just think it is more prudent for your team to draft Stewart later on in the draft, than Williams early on.