Dynasty Dilemma: Jonathan Stewart

In my years of playing in dynasty leagues, I’ve come to realize one very important thing – this game will absolutely rip your guts out and leave you throwing up in the middle of the night if you let it. One day you think you’re as smart as Ken Jennings from Jeopardy! and the next you look as stupid as Charlie Sheen. Simply put, there are certain players who will break your heart, steal your soul and leave you shaking your head in disgust.

Enter Jonathan Stewart.

When Stewart was drafted as the 13th pick in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers, dynasty league owners rejoiced, thinking they had the next big thing. After all, “The Daily Show” had just ripped apart the PAC-10 to the tune of 1,700 yards and 11 touchdowns as a Junior at the University of Oregon. He had the look of a bona fide featured back and total stud at the next level. He was a “can’t miss” in dynasty leagues and went second overall to Darren McFadden in virtually every dynasty rookie draft that Summer.


Stewart’s career thus far is defined by “what could have been.” It seems every time he’s on the cusp of stardom, something happens to derail him.

In 2008, many thought Stewart would overtake DeAngelo Williams and become the lead back for the Panthers. Instead, Williams blew up for a career high 1,515 yards and 18 touchdowns. This created a frustrating time share that produced not two very good, but not great fantasy plays all the way through the 2010 season.

I’m feeling hot and dizzy.

Last year’s offseason was supposed to be Stewart’s coming out party. After all, the Broncos and Dolphins were hot after Williams as a free agent and there was virtually no chance of him returning to Carolina. It just made no sense to spend a ton of money on Williams when you had a guy like Stewart ready to be the featured back.

My stomach is starting to rumble.

After Williams was re-signed last year, many Stewart owners wanted to bail. After all, it had been three seasons of waiting already. Those who stuck with Stewart hoped that having a rookie quarterback in Cam Newton would lead to the Panthers running the ball a ton and leaving Stewart with some solid goal line work. Instead, Newton proved to be Panthers best option near the goal line as he rushed for a ridiculous 14 scores of his own.

Where’s the toilet?

That brings us to the present offseason. After outplaying Williams last year, most owners were hoping to see Stewart work into the lion’s share of the carries this season. It wasn’t a prime situation and far from what owners had been wanting to see, but it was good enough for this year, especially considering Stewart will be entering free agency at the end of the season. So, of course, the Panthers respond accordingly by signing Mike Tolbert.

Oh, there it is, just in time to miss the bathroom floor.

As I said before, this game will rip you to pieces if you let it. Free agency in the NFL is so unpredictable and it can completely and totally wreak havoc on your team – it’s single handedly wiped out Stewart’s potential for dynasty greatness a few times. That brings us to the present day and the one of the hottest debates on our forum and in fantasy. What should you do if you own Stewart?

Let’s start with the case to sell.

Stewart has had a history of nagging injuries and many say that’s one reason to stay far away from him. It seems like every season sees him missing practices and listed constantly as “questionable.” While he rarely misses time on the field, it has to be of concern.

There are also no guarantees of Stewart ever getting that starting job everyone so badly wants him to have. The NFL is quickly going to committee backfields everywhere and expecting him to be the lead horse for a team in Carolina or elsewhere is beginning to look like a lot to ask for.

While it’s true that Stewart is a free agent, it’s hard to say what will happen next year. While it’s entirely possible that DeAngelo Williams could be cut, the Panthers still have Mike Goodson (if he’s re-signed next year) and Mike Tolbert in the mix. Add the running of Newton into the mix and that’s just a mess. Even if he was to leave, there’s no guarantee he finds the money or situation he likes. Just look at what guys like Michael Bush are signing for – Bush is making less than some kickers out there and he was one of the best running backs on the market.

Now, the case to buy.

When you watch Stewart, there’s no doubt he’s one of the most talented running backs in football. His blend of power and speed rivals that of a healthy Adrian Peterson. Teams would salivate to have a player with his dynamic running and pass catching ability on their roster. His career yards per carry average from last year was a ridiculous 5.4 – good for third in the league among backs with at least 140 carries.

Even with Tolbert in town, Stewart remains the most productive back in Carolina. In fact, Tolbert was introduced as a fullback when he signed, so there’s no guarantee that Stewart’s workload will be diminished greatly this year anyway. He as a solid RB2 in ppr leagues last year and that’s really his floor in relation to his value.

Believe it or not, Stewart just turned 25 yesterday – that’s still very young and he’ll enter free agency with less than 1,000 career carries in his five seasons. When you consider some running backs are getting close to that many carries in just three years, that’s significant. He’s far from washed up and you could make the case his career has been preserved based on his modest workload.

As far as free agency goes, Stewart will have choices to make next year and there will be no shortage of suitors. What kind of numbers could he put up playing with his old coach in Denver? How about as the lead back in Atlanta to replace Michael Turner? There are a ton of scenarios that could play out where Stewart could finally make good on his top three potential. Do you want to give up on that now? There’s a simple rule of thumb out there that says you never sell low and that’s exactly what you could be doing with Stewart. At best, you’re likely “selling even.” Do you want another owner to have that chance of an explosion with virtually no risk?

The case to buy or sell on Stewart is going to rage on for the next season. For me, he’s still squarely on the buy list. The payoff could be enormous and what’s another year to wait at this point. At worst, Stewart will find himself in another committee situation next year, meaning he’s retained his current value. If you move him right now, there’s significantly more risk.

I mean, really, it’s not like something else could actually happen to decrease his value, right.

I’m feeling queasy again…

Ken Kelly

Ken Kelly

Senior Partner - Executive Editor at DynastyLeagueFootball
Ken is a corporate trainer by day an a tireless editor of dynasty content by night. His passion for the World Champion Seattle Seahawks is second only to his love of fantasy football and the dynasty format.

Ken is on Twitter at DLF_KenK
Ken Kelly

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  1. @chriscrane27

    March 22, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    As a Jonathan Stewart owner in 1 of my 3 dynasty leagues I have pursued him countless times in the other 2 leagues and those owners are just like me: they know what he brings to the table and can wait. I was offered 4 2013 1sts for Stew today (plus DWill) and I just couldn’t do it. In the league I run we just had our initial draft this past January. Its a PPR league & we start 2 RBs and my RB core looks like this:
    5. Jonathan Stewart, CAR (drafted 2nd round at 1.9)
    6. Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG (drafted 3rd round at 3.4)
    7. Reggie Bush, MIA (drafted 7th round at 7.9)
    8. Mike Tolbert, CAR (traded before FA started for a 2012 2nd and 3rd)
    9. Ben Tate, HOU (traded for a 2012 1.7 and 1.11)
    10. DeAngelo Williams, CAR (traded for a 2012 1.7 and 1.11… DWill was a throw in)
    11. Frank Gore, SF (traded 4 2013 1sts… the 2012 3.1 was included)
    12. Kendall Hunter, SF (traded 4 2013 1sts… the 2012 3.1 was included)

    I have a stable of RBs and guess what those 4 1sts I was offered for JStew, I didn’t do it because I can wait 1 more season. Its like giving that girl you broke up with 1 more chance and hoping she doesn’t run off with a guy named “Cam” or “DeAngelo” heck this time “Mike”….fyi i got so many 2013 1sts because I drafted QBs and people forgot to draft QBs lol

    JStew owners UNITE!!! Keep him
    JStew non-owners GET HIM!!!!

  2. Josh G

    March 22, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    Nice article and I have both bought and later sold JStew in the same league. My league allows us to keep our starters and 5 bench spots…and for me JStew was always graded as “hmm..do I keep him..try to trade him, or cut him…” considering I had other backs that were arguably better. But its so difficult giving up on a guy you KNOW is elite. But to make room for productive players..sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

    I hope he gets the chance someday, somewhere, someday SOON, to showcase his talents…even though it will be one of those moments where I say “I knew I should have kept him!!!”

  3. Sensai_John_Kreese

    March 22, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    I cut Jstew in my league, so i get him back in the free agent auction and sign him for 4 years. Figured his value wont get any lower. Could have had him for 11 dollars just next year, but i’d rather pay 20 for 4 more years. Great read, Ken.

  4. bigd

    March 22, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    i think that with carolina having deangelo in a contract that they cant trade, tolbert in town, and one more year on stews contract, maybe this is the year that they trade stewart to get some value out of him before he walks away free next year?….maybe denver and fox want him?????

  5. DLF_KenK

    March 22, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    It’s entirely possible. They’re saying he’s not on the block, but I have a hard time believing they wouldn’t listen to offers.

    If someone like the Browns offered a 2nd day pick, wouldn’t you think long and hard about that? If you’re the Browns and are set on taking position players in the first two rounds (which I’m not convinced they are), you’d basically be looking at these two options:

    1. Jonathan Stewart (via trade with your #2) and Justin Blackmon (drafted in the first round)

    2. Trent Richardson (draft him in the first) and someone like Mohamed Sanu (draft him in the second)

    They could even conceivably trade that #2 for Stewart and take Tannehill at #4.

    Either way, I’d think it would be worth a discussion.

  6. Coach

    March 22, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    i pulled the trigger 2 years ago on MJD for Deangelo, Stewart and Fitzgerald. the owner then backed down before he hit accept on the website even though we agreed to the deal.

    i’m happy.

  7. TheFlyingLineman

    March 23, 2012 at 5:15 am

    GREAT article, Ken! As soon as Tolbert signed with Carolina, I began sending out offers for JStew in most of my leagues. I think that a lot of owners initially threw up, as you put it, when Carolina signed Tolbert. I, for one, believed that it was more of a clearcut sign that management knew that Stew would be going elsewhere next offseason. That almost led me to believe that he could be traded THIS season in order for Carolina to get something out of him before he just walked. I think that RIGHT now is the perfect time to be buying him. Just last night I gave 1.03, 3.04, Ponder and a future 3rd for him. If you could have told me a year or two ago that I would get Stewart for the kind of deal, I would have told you to put down the pipe. The limited amount of carries he’s had throughout his career to this point seem to more that justify the idea that he will provide multiple years of solid production, if not elite status.

  8. Cyrus

    March 23, 2012 at 7:00 am

    This article (and comments) makes me feel like less of an idiot for the trade I just did.

    I gave up the 1.02 for Stewart, Dalton and a 2nd in 2013 (team is bad, will be top 4 I think). Everyone in the league said that I was stupid and bidding against myself, but I had two thoughts…

    1- I wasn’t bidding against myself, I was bidding against what the owner would require to give up on Stewart. If Stewart is always in a RBBC, I lose the trade. If he becomes the starter this year or next, I win big.

    2- I drafted Stewart at 1.03 his rookie year. (Talk about a crazy year, our draft went: DMC-Mendy-Stewart-Forte-Kevin Smith-Chris Johnson-Ray Rice… all have had value but I would prefer to get Ray Rice or Chris Johnson of all of them, and they went last)

    So in 2009, Stewart started in the playoffs and helped me win the Championship. During the draft, I traded him for the 2.09 in 2010 and a first in 2011 and 2012. The 2.09 was used on Eric Decker (paying off now) and the firsts became the 1.01 in 2011 and 1.02 in 2012. So by trading the pick to get him back, I am just taking pity on the team that traded with me before.

    Btw, I screwed up the 1.01… someone offered me Mendenhall and Steve Johnson (who was a FA in the auction league). I thought it was a great deal and took it, but Steve Johnson was paid too much so I didn’t keep him and Mendy sucked… but at least Ingram didn’t do much either. I do kick myself that I could have drafted AJ Green though.

  9. meens

    March 23, 2012 at 10:04 am

    wow. eveyone has a right to an opinion but you guys in the comments are way over valuing him. for the guy that turned down 4 2013 1sts for him: you are missing a great opportunity to build great future value while only giving up what has been a flex player to this point.
    i dealt with the stewart shenanigans for years. i had him and dwill until last offseason. i got a feeling that dwill would resign from him and stewarts offseason comments about liking playing together. i sold dwill for 2 future 1sts b4 he chose to stay, after he resigned i shipped stewart away for 2 more mediocre future 1sts. today i consider it an absolute steal by me! i expect to get at least one player that produces more than stewart out of those 4. i currently own 1.04 and would laugh at the thought of gibing that up for stewart while hes stuck in a 4 man rotation. even if his laye career opportunity comes hed be lucky to have a career much better than turners prime years. the biggest strength a dynasty owner can have is to not fall in love with his players. when the trade value outweighs the actual value its time to sell. stewart is the best example i can think of

  10. Ken Moody

    March 23, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Reports coming out now that the Panthers are in fact looking to trade Stewart. It’s a buyers market right now in the NFL for RB’s, but surely some team will want a top tier talent like Stewart, and be willing to pay for him. Buy now, while you still can.


  11. "Slick Rick"

    March 23, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    This morning, JUST before this article, I traded Hillis/2.1 for JStew….!!!!

  12. @chriscrane27

    March 23, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Just remember Santa Claus rewards those who are patient… Santa Claus comes 1 more time (2012) before free agency 2013! Heck the Easter Bunny might reward us because Carolina is open to a JStew trade

  13. StevieMo

    March 23, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    As a dynasty player who cried, “Sell!” after Shaun Alexander’s last monster year, I’m yelling, “Buy” this year. Reminds me of the Michael Turner situation in San Diego, where you had to warehouse him for a few years but it all paid off when he got the gig in Atlanta. Stewart has a lot of treadwear left on his tires and should have 5 very nice years wherever he ends up.

    We might get lucky and get a draft day deal this year but I think it would be crazy for the Panthers to do that.

  14. Dan

    March 23, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    This is the PERFECT article for me right now, I had williams and Stewart in my dynasty league for the last two years think one day they will be apart! ONE DAY!!! I just traded Stewart in a deal to get the 4th overall pick thinking he would be stuck in hell for another season or two. They then sign tolbert and are going to trade him. HE is going to be a top ten back and kill me everyday he does it. I am going crazy!

  15. Greg

    March 24, 2012 at 1:35 am

    I traded 2 weeks ago, just before the Tolbert Signing, Felix Jones and Heap, to buy Stewart 😀
    I thought i would pay in 2013, but it should come early

    • StevieMo

      March 24, 2012 at 8:30 am

      Felix Jones and Heap for Jonathan Stewart? Man, you bent that fool over. Great trade.

  16. Brad

    March 24, 2012 at 4:28 am

    Just last night I pulled the trigger on acquiring J Stew for Ingram Straight up. I look at those 2 and as of now IMO they are in very similar situations, so why the lateral move? Simple, I view J Stews potential much higher than Ingram’s and this league is a salary cap/contract league and J Stew is signed thru 2013 for $10 while Ingram is thru 2014 for $15. If J Stew leaves Carolina I will have the option of resigning him at the end of 2013 for the same $10 that he costs now.

  17. Shockey

    March 24, 2012 at 6:25 am

    Unless there is no market, Stew will be traded. With d’angelos contract, the Panthers put them selves in a corner. That’s why the signing of Tolbert is astute. This is Cam’s team, and Tolbert gives them a low cost rbbc partner, good pass blocker and check down specialist. All future financial resources the Panthers will use will go elsewhere, not rb. Tolbert will be part of the rbbc there for the foreseeable future. Stew is talented, no doubt. I, like many, salivate him getting out of the most frustrating fantasy tandem in fantasy history. I strongly believe he will be dealt by the draft. The Panthers should be able to get at minimum a 2nd round pick, still have dangelo and Tolbert as a quality tandem, and let Cam lead. Stew owners, its gonna happen.

    • bigd

      March 24, 2012 at 9:41 am

      i agree 100%

  18. StevieMo

    March 24, 2012 at 10:22 am

    I have a good team but my RB situation has not been good the last two years (bad luck and bad drafting). Anyway, I now have Stewart, Ingram, Ridley and McGahee plus pick 1.03 in our upcoming draft (which I acquired for Finley and pick 1.07). I expect our draft to go Luck, Griffin, Richardson).

    That could be a nice turnaround if my four RBs become Richardson, Stewart (assuming a trade situation upgrade), Ingram (assuming health) and Ridley (with BJGE gone). I can probably get a third rounder for Willis.

    The thing that’s cool about dynasty football is how rapidly things can change in one offseason (of course they can also change for the worse — ask Peyton Hillis). This site is great in terms of getting everyone’s point of view and incorporating it into draft/trade strategies.

  19. Detroitcity

    March 24, 2012 at 11:05 am

    let me ask you guys a question, which of these 2 trade scenarios would you prefer…been trying to get Stewart for a few weeks now and these are the 2 offers the owner of Stewart is willing to do. I would lock Stewart up thru 2015 with a trade

    #1: 1.1 pick & 1.6 pick for 1.3 pick, 1.4 pick, Stewart, Deangelo (its a salary cap league and he would be dumping Deangelo’s salary to me but could be beneficial if Stewart gets traded)

    *note i also own the 1.5 pick, so i would have 3/4/5 after this trade

    #2 Bradshaw and 1st in 2013, 1st in 2014 for Stewart

    • Detroitcity

      March 24, 2012 at 11:06 am

      RB carry a larger premium in our league, so Richardson would be the 1.1 pick with out a doubt, whether its me picking or him

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  23. BB Wayne

    March 30, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    I offered 1.10, 2.01, 2013 1st, 2013 2nd, Moss or any other receiver not named Austin or Brown for Stewart. This was before the Goodman trade. I thought it was fair, but the owner said no. Would love to have him so I could pick up Luck or Griffin with my 1.01 instead of Richardson.

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  25. Forrest Cohn

    August 10, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Just got him for Jahvid and Mario Manningham. Great trade

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