By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
Transaction: The New York (Football) Giants sign RB Jonathan Stewart to a 2-year deal
2018 Fantasy Outlook: The success of 30-year old running backs in the NFL isn’t a very long list. For every Frank Gore, there are a cavalcade of others that fell off a cliff. So you can see why teams don’t pay top dollar for RBs when they hit that point in their career. The few teams that do typically have either a young RB currently on the roster in need of seasoning or plans to draft one to split time with a veteran before taking the reigns for themselves.
The Giants have a glaring need at running back. They finished 26th in the NFL in rushing offense. They started the year with Paul Perkins. When he didn’t work out, they worked in Shane Vereen and Orleans Darkwa. When healthy, they even gave significant carries to rookie Wayne Gallman. They tied for 28th in football with only six rushing TDs — five from Darkwa. Their offensive line graded out as 26th best according to Pro Football Focus. They also ranked 19th in the league in average rushing yards before first contact. To put it lightly, the offensive line did little favors for a pedestrian group of ball carriers.
New Giants GM Dave Gettleman came from the Panthers organization. Free agent RB Jonathan Stewart played his entire 10-year career for the Panthers. See the connection? Stewart, the all-time leading rusher in Panthers’ history, signed a two-year deal to join Gettleman’s new team and help jumpstart a putrid Giants’ running game. While that sounds logical on the surface, Stewart’s best years are in the rearview. He hasn’t played a full 16 games since 2011. In ten seasons, Stewart has exactly one 1,000 yard season. He’s had only two seasons with 10 TDs — his first two years in the league — but did have 9 TDs in 2016. He also hasn’t averaged over four yards a carry since 2015. And he’s also not a great receiving threat. Basically, he’s a two down back that may get you four yards a carry. But behind the Giants offensive line, maybe 2.5.
Stewart is not the answer. He’s a stop gap, likely in New York for 2018 only. (Yes, the deal says two years, but this is the NFL, people. Deals are never what they appear on the surface.) Is Perkins the answer? He didn’t seize the job last year so he’s likely not a high priority. Wayne Gallman? He averaged 4.61 yards per touch and chipped in 34 receptions. Can he carry a full load or is he merely a complimentary piece? Stewart will team with them to hopefully pull the Giants running game out of the abyss.
I’m not envisioning a statistical breakthrough from Stewart. He’s finished as RB19, RB32, and RB39 the last three seasons. Depending how the NFL Draft goes for the Giants — there’s buzz they may select Penn State RB Saquon Barkley 2nd overall — will ultimately depend on Stewart’s potential in 2018. If they don’t add a RB and go into the season with Stewart, Perkins, and Gallman — 2017 leading rusher Darkwa is still unsigned — Stewart has the opportunity to hit 600 yards and 6 TDs, but that’s what, maybe RB40 numbers? You’re not drafting Stewart. But I’d take a flier on Gallman. If he tops the 145 touches he had last year, he could be in the FLEX conversation.