A hammer is an instrument one uses to drive the nail. A nice and proper hammer should have a good, long life. This is often the opposite of what happens to those stout RBs. They are asked drive home the tough yards up the middle. Usually catastrophe strikes their lower extremities and they never bounce back to be the same. Therefore, shelf lives in this quasi-meat market that is professional football is severely short. Somehow, Jonathan Stewart (Known affectionately as J-Stew) has continued to drive home tough yardage for a decade in the NFL. For more in this series or more RB Theorem, click here.
Jonathan Stewart | Rookie Numbers – 184/836/10 | 4.5 YPA/52.3 YPG/11.5 APG | 8 rec 47 yards 0 TDs in 16 games
After a 1,700 yard junior season at Oregon, the Panthers made Stewart the 13th overall pick of the 2008 draft. As a rookie, Stewart failed to reach my 1,200 yards from scrimmage plateau. He did not even eclipse 900 yards! However, his 10 TDs were soothing enough for my fantasy soul that I had to include him in the series. Do not forget that his battery mate, DeAngelo Williams went for 273/1,515/18 during that same season. So it is very easy to attribute J-Stew’s successes to that stout rushing offense. His runs were of the high percentage variety. In fact, only two of his 10 rushing scores were longer than eight yards. Also, seven of those TDs came from inside the five-yard line.
At 5-foot-10 and 240 pounds, it is clear that Stewart is a bulldozer. Despite failing to average better than 4.1 YPA in five of his 11 seasons (including the last three years in a row), he still holds a career mark 4.3 YPA.
As you gaze upon Stewart’s rookie game logs you will see his usage and effectiveness was very sporadic. In tight games, he was clearly part of the Carolina red zone attack. He was also able to eat up the clock in some blowout wins.
J-Stew has been a mostly boring option through the years, being drafted as the 15-20 RB in fantasy drafts. ”He is not flashy but he is effective” is usually how people defended their draft selection of him. The PPR trend certainly did not do Stewart any favors. He does have a career-high reception season of 47. He also had a season with 25 receptions. In the other nine seasons (including 2018) he has 18 or fewer receptions. He even has six seasons with eight or less. Can you say two-down thumper to a major degree? Or, the opposite of Darren Sproles.
It seems inconceivable to think that an RB who has had only one 1,000 yard season could last 11 mediocre seasons in the NFL. I guess the Panthers proved loyalty is thicker than the salary cap, at least in this one isolated incident.
Stewart’s best rushing season came in year two, which was made possible with the aforementioned Williams missing three games. Stewart chugged his way to five 100-yard games. Included were three such efforts to close the season. One of which was a 206-yard day.
As for the rest of his career, Stewart always seemed to battle for touches with another back. Also, after appearing in all 16 games in three of his first four seasons, he has failed to do so during the last seven years (including 2018). Like so many RBs, Stewart has hobbled through seasons with nagging injuries. Surprisingly, he has only two seasons (not including 2018) in which he has had under 680 rushing yards. In those seasons he only played in nine and six games, respectively.
Believe it or not, Stewart actually ranks 59th all-time in rushing yards. He is just behind contemporaries like Terrell Davis, Jamaal Charles and Michael “the Burner” Turner. Stewart is also just ahead of DeMarco Murray on that list. Longevity is a rising unicorn and Stewart’s horn has punctured alongside some elite names.
Stewart is someone who has been perpetually disrespected but has certainly left his mark. His 7, 335 rushing yards and 58 total TDs may not be Canton-worthy, however, fantasy appeal was at the very least steady thanks to constant touch opportunity.