Running Back - Oregon
Combine Height: 5-10
Combine Weight: 235
Combine 40 Time: 4.48
Rushed for 1,722 yards and added 145 receiving yards as a senior, scoring 13 touchdowns in the process.
Stewart is billed as the most complete back in the draft, and it’s tough to argue. He has the size to run between the tackles, and the 4.48 40 he posted at the Combine should help address concerns he lacks breakaway speed; comparisons to a young Jamal Lewis seem entirely appropriate. Stewart is also an adept pass-catcher and capable in pass protection—an underrated criteria that can often keep a rookie back off the field.
There are questions about Stewart’s durability, however, beginning with the recent toe surgery that has impacted his draft stock. Stewart’s punishing running style—he doesn’t make many tacklers miss, choosing instead to run over them—and a history of ankle, toe, and hamstring injuries fuel that fire. So the question becomes this: yes, he can bang into Pac-10 defenders, but what about at the next level? On the flip side, Stewart played—and played well—through those injuries, exhibiting his toughness. He also brings some return skills to the table, having finished in the top 10 in the nation with a 28.1 average kickoff return as a sophomore.
The Panthers just broke up one backfield-by-committee, but using Stewart to augment DeAngelo Williams makes plenty of sense in this era of two-back backfields. The Bears seem interested in replacing Cedric Benson, and the Lions have a vacancy after kicking Kevin Jones to the curb. If Stewart falls out of the top half of Round One the Cardinals would be more than happy to groom him as Edgerrin James’ replacement, and though the Texans have needs on the offensive line Stewart would be a good fit in that offense and maybe create some of his own holes.
Landing in a crowded backfield wouldn’t be a death knell for Stewart’s fantasy prospects out of the gate, as his size and powerful running style suggest he’d be in line for short-yardage and, more importantly, goal line duty. And his versatility could get him on the field in a Marion Barber vein, with his pro team using him against worn-down defenses to control the ball in the second half. Obviously, if he walks into a solo gig he has the skills to stay on the field regardless of situation and would be capable of a solid, Marshawn Lynch type of rookie campaign.
Dynasty leaguers should take note of the Lewis comparison. If Stewart is asked to shoulder a 20-plus carry-per-game workload from Day One, his running style suggests a shorter career expectancy than the typical NFL back. Not that those first few years wouldn’t be productive, but it’s worth keeping in mind down the road.