With every week of training camp missed, we knew that Jonathan Stewart's ankles were not healthy. But when Carolina placed the former Oregon Ducks star on the PUP this week, it revealed the extent of his malady, and it's not good.
At best, Stewart is eligible to return in Week 7, which means, although backup RB Mike Tolbert's role will be elevated, it's DeAngelo Williams who stands to gain the most from the loss of his long-time platoon partner. The latest ADP numbers show Williams coming off draft boards after more than 30 running backs' names have already been called. That's curiously low for someone that finished inside the top 25 at the RB position last season, and who is likely headed for his largest workload in several years.
Despite Cam Newton's penchant for keeping the ball himself inside the red zone (22 rushing TDs in his two seasons), Williams has still managed a respectable seven trips to the end zone in each season alongside Newton. And with Stewart out of the picture for several weeks, Williams seems like a good bet to reach 200-plus carries for the first time since '09, when he finished among the top 15 fantasy backs - and let's not forgot he paced the position in '08.
Williams is one of the game's premier go-the-distance threats at the RB position. His career YPC average of 4.9 ranks him among the top 5 all time (Minimum 1,000 carries). His fantasy value is just a matter of where his touch total lands. And with Stewart sidelined until at least mid-October, Williams' workload should be plentiful. He's got an easy path in front of him to top 25 fantasy running back production, and even the top 20 isn't a pie-in-the–sky projection.