Sports Outside the Beltway

NFL Draft 2008 – Round 1 #13 – Carolina Panthers – RB Jonathan Stewart

NFL Draft 2008 Logo The Carolina Panthers are on the clock.

But they’re wasting no time: They took RB Jonathan Stewart of Oregon.

(5’10″, 235, 4.48) | OREGON

Strengths: Is a compactly built back with excellent body control. Shifty and quick; he runs low to the ground and has good change-of-direction skills. Shows very good initial quickness and also displays a second-gear when he gets through the line of scrimmage. Has made significant strides in terms of vision and patience as a runner throughout his career. Displays reliable hands as a receiver. Gets up the field quickly after the catch and can be a huge weapon when he catches the ball on the run in space. Has size and strength to anchor (when in position) versus blitzing linebacker in pass pro. Displays excellent potential as a kick return specialist and was one of the nation’s best when allowed to spend time in that facet of the game.

Weaknesses: Durability is a big concern. Has battled injuries throughout his career. Always seems to be nicked. Has limited experience carrying the full load. He’s compactly built and strong, but he’s not a power back. He doesn’t look to initiate contact much and he will run out of bounds instead of lowering his shoulder for extra yards on occasion. He goes down a bit too easily at times, as well. Not overly physical as a blocker. Still has room to improve in terms of awareness as a pass blocker. Will take some poor angles and doesn’t always appear to be confident in his assignment.

Overall: Even as a freshman reserve in 2005, Stewart was able to make his mark, scoring nine touchdowns on just 72 touches as a runner, receiver and kickoff returner. Despite injuries, he played 13 games in 2006 and ran for 981 yards and 10 TDs. He also had 20 receptions for 144 yards and another score. In 2007, his first season as Oregon’s feature back, Stewart established new school single-season marks in rushing yards (1,722) and all-purpose yards (2,481), leading the Pac-10 in both categories. He finished his junior season with 13 total touchdowns, adding 145 receiving yards on 22 catches. In three seasons, he averaged 28.7 yards and scored two TDs on kickoff returns. Stewart has battled durability issues throughout his career, but he also has shown toughness playing through several injuries. If he can avoid the injury bug at the next level, Stewart has a chance to emerge as one of the premier playmakers at the running back position. He is a compact runner with an outstanding combination of quickness, vision, body control and open-field burst. He also brings versatility to the table with soft hands as a receiver and an outstanding collegiate resume returning kicks. Stewart should be one of the top-three running backs selected in the 2008 NFL draft  likely in the mid-to-late portion of the first round.

Scouts, Inc.:

Rick Gosselin: 17th

Mel Kiper: 21st

The numbers are all over the place because Stewart had an injury and is recovering. Presuming he’s healthy, though, this is a solid pick. He’s projected to be an awesome NFL running back.

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