There once was a time that I was a believer in drafting running backs early and often. In fact, I wanted to draft a running back with my first, second, and third pick, even in points per reception (PPR) formats. My goal was to always come away with at least three running backs after my fifth pick. However, as I was prepping for draft season (last spring), I noticed a consistent trend … Once the fourth round came around, I found myself seeing a nice size group of running backs just sitting there. The ability to load up on a more consistent and higher scoring position like wide receiver and the added ability to get a huge advantage at tight end with the likes of Jimmy Graham or Julius Thomas starting looking attractive. All while, you could wait and pluck between two-to-three running backs in the fourth through eight round of any draft. I had a lot of fun (outside the box drafting), and it didn’t hurt to mix in some success with this game plan.
After diving into the game log for Jonathan Stewart, I expected to see a few missed games (check). He actually ended up missing a total of three games from week four through six. I then started my normal search for a pattern of any kind, and by golly I found one. It started in week 10 vs the Philadelphia Eagles and did not stop till the Carolina Panthers season ended. In his final seven regular season games, he gained 91.4 total yards, with two catches and found the end zone 0.3 total touchdowns per game. Those numbers gave fantasy owners 13 fantasy points per game in a PPR format. That’s quality RB1 production (PPR) during this stretch. His best PPR game came in week 16 vs the Cleveland Browns. In this game, he rushed for 122 yards (5.1 yards per carry), hauled in two passes, and one of those was a touchdown. Delving a little deeper, you will see that in four of these games, he rushed for at least 73 yards and caught two or more passes. I would also like to note that he hauled in 82% of his total targets over the seven games. (I can’t forget to add in his two playoff games. As he rushed for 193 yards, 5.2 yards per carry, and one touchdown. He did this against the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks.)
So we fast forward to now and I see a player (Stewart) that had a terrific finish to his season (nine games). The Panthers moved on from his backfield mate DeAngelo Williams (Now a Pittsburgh Steeler). Yet, I see Stewart available in the early parts of the fourth round (PPR). It’s value like this that has my expectations and hopes up that this will be even a better year to implement the wait and pluck approach at running back in 2015.
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