Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
With the 2011 NFL season in limbo, it makes predictions almost impossible to forecast. But we will try it anyway, just to show you how confusing the situation is at this time.
Lets try to evaluate the Carolina Panthers backfield.
While the 2010 Panthers were the lowest scoring team in the league, averaging just 12.2 ppg, they were not devoid of talent, certainly not at the running back position.
The team had 2008 TSN Fantasy Football Player of the Year DeAngelo Williams, their 2008 No.1 draft choice (13th overall) Jonathan Stewart and a productive Mike Goodson on the roster.
Both Williams and Stewart are 1,000-yard rushers when healthy. Unfortunately, Williams played just six games (87-361-1) and Stewart (178-770-2) started just seven games due to injury.
Which brings us to the 2011-12 season.
It appears that Williams will either be an unrestricted or restricted free agent and rumors have a couple of teams very interested in his services. The strongest of these rumors seem to be coming out of Denver, where his old coach, John Fox, is the new head of the Broncos coaching staff. The rumors claim that the team has evaluated 2010 starter Knowshon Moreno and determined that he isn't the workhorse running back to carry them into the future and are therefore interested in Williams.
From a fantasy standpoint, Williams would likely have more value in Denver than in Carolina - a better offense, better quarterback and passing game to balance the running game and the opportunity to be the No.1 guy again. Williams would be the primary ball carrier with Moreno as a possible third- down back replacing Correll Buckhalter who averaged just 2.5 ypc last season
In Denver, Williams could average from 16-20 rushes per game and at his career average of 5.0 ypc could once again become an elite running back.
Back in Carolina, Williams would share time with Stewart on a nearly 50-50 basis with Stewart having the edge in goal line carries. Williams in Carolina would also obviously limit Stewart's upside, given that his upper end on attempts would be around 225 carries.
But if Williams heads west, or any place other than Charlotte, Stewart would become a primary workhorse for the Panthers with Goodson taking the role of third-down receiving specialist. In this situation, Stewart could be a 300+ carry running back and using his career 4.7 ypc average could become a 1,400 to 1,500-yard rusher next season.
Throw in the need to protect their young quarterbacks, Casey Clausen or 2011 No.1 overall selection Cam Newton, and you have the makings of a top-10 running back. Given his current ADP of 45.4 and his being the 21st running back off the board (courtesy of fantasyfootballcalculator.com), he'd be a huge bargain.
The difference between having Williams and Stewart together in Carolina or on separate teams is why fantasy projections at this moment, July 6, 2011, are virtually impossible.
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