There are many strange coincidences out there in fantasy football land. The Madden Curse, the Curse of 370, and the Super Bowl Loser Curse are just a few of the superstitions that some fantasy players live by or swear up and down are just flukes. If you don’t believe in that kind of foolishness, or if you are still sipping the Jonathan Stewart Kool-Aid, or even worse, both, you should probably just stop reading now.
There is something strange happening among the running back elite. In a time where more and more wide receivers are flying off the board in the first round and running backs are becoming more and more unpredictable by the day, there appears to be a constant at the top of the running back class in non-PPR leagues. That constant is the Two-Year Running Back Super Stud.
I present to you the top running backs from the present back to the year 2000.
Quite an interesting pattern here. If you buy into patterns, trends, curses or the like, you will think twice about not taking DeAngelo Williams this year. What makes this year more interesting than others is how late DeAngelo Williams is going in drafts. I have seen him slip out of the first round in “expert” drafts. I have seen him passed over for running backs that, in my opinion, have far less upside and even more questions surrounding their pedigree and situation. Let’s look at why he currently is getting snubbed and also look at why you should ignore the less-informed fantasy football players out there and feel good about landing yourself a super stud in DeAngelo Williams.
The biggest factor in the Rodney Dangerfield treatment of DeAngelo Williams is what I call the Jonathan Stewart Factor. Williams languished on the bench behind the likes of DeShaun Foster for several years before getting his shot and when his number was going to be called, the Panthers went and drafted Jonathan Stewart. The people who had actually heard of DeAngelo Williams had soured on him at this point, because only a bum couldn’t pass DeShaun Foster on the depth chart, and the logical conclusion was that coaches had no faith in him if they took Stewart in the first round. It was a foregone conclusion that Williams would give way to Stewart. And there really wasn’t any evidence to the contrary, especially since Stewart is an all-world physical specimen and talent. Big things were expected of Stewart, which he is failing to live up to, primarily due to his bum wheel.
Stewart has had problems with his left foot going back to high school. He missed offseason work his rookie season and did the same this year. Coach Fox has stated 4th-round rookie Mike Goodson is earning touches from Stewart while his left Achilles prevents him from playing. Goodson is probably not a significant threat to Stewart if Stewart is healthy, but as history has shown, that is a big if. The threat to DeAngelo Williams is even smaller, and both players will be fighting an uphill battle for additional playing time.
The Jonathan Stewart Factor is lingering around in Carolina, but it is starting to fade. The years behind DeShaun Foster and the drafting of Stewart don’t mean much anymore. The fact is that Stewart is worse off medically than he was last year and does not pose a threat to eating into a greater portion of Williams’ carries. The best Stewart can do this year is probably a repeat performance of last year and that is growing increasingly unlikely as his injury woes linger.
Without Stewart presenting a legitimate threat to Williams’ carries, the Panthers returning a strong offensive line, and Williams showing the unique ability to turn a garbage play into a special one, I believe Williams will carry the ball more often than he did last year and will lead fantasy backs in scoring again in 2009.
Only three running backs have run for more than 5.5 yards per carry and scored 18+ times in a season. Those players are Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson, and DeAngelo Williams. It would take a dramatic drop off in performance for Williams to not succeed this year. You could show off your monster cojones by taking Williams first overall. If you lack that kind of testicular fortitude, no worries, you should still be able to land him in the top five and get some incredible value out of this super stud.
Matt is a graduate student at the University of Michigan (GO BLUE). He spends entirely too much time on fantasy football and his wife reminds him of this on a regular basis. You can catch up with Matt in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of mattUTD20.
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