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Spotlight - RB Eric Shelton, Carolina Panthers

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Jason Wood's Thoughts

Figuring out the Carolina running back situation is harder than mastering the Dead Sea Scrolls. But since I long since abandoned my passion for ancient texts, and am gainfully employed to pontificate about fantasy football, I'm going to give you my best GUESS. Please understand that ultimately this situation could end up much differently. After all how many of people, myself and fellow staffers included, figured Nick Goings would end up being the ball carrier (and an effective one at that) last year?

Scenario One: Stephen Davis is really done, but Foster stays healthy...This would be the odds on favorite considering Davis' age, workload and the fact that no RB has come back from microfracture surgery with any great success. Under this scenario, the Panthers would want DeShaun Foster to be the lead back. I've never been particularly enamored with Foster (and that's served me well) but some of my fellow staff believe I'm being too hard on him. They argue, "if he can stay healthy, he'll be a monster." Well, while I understand that logic because of his situation (Carolina wants and will run the ball) and his pedigree (he was studly at UCLA), I can't ignore the fact that he's played in 18 games out of a possible 48! But for the sake of discussion, IF Foster stays healthy but Davis is out...he'll likely be a value pick because his injury history has him going several rounds lower than he would produce as a 16-game starter.

Scenario Two: Stephen Davis comes back, but Foster goes down again...In late August, Davis actually began practicing again and was immediately given carries with the first team offense. Yet, the coaching staff has steadfastly maintained that Foster is the starter. If somehow Davis remained healthy but Foster went down from injury AGAIN, obviously Davis would be one of the steals of this years draft. Even now he's going 49th among RBs, so there's virtually no downside to rostering him.

Scenario Three: Both Davis and Foster miss time...Davis is a 31 year old workhorse coming back from microfracture surgery, Foster has missed 30 of 48 games in his career. I'm betting this scenario is the most likely one. With that in mind, you need to remember three names: Eric Shelton, Jamal Robertson and Nick Goings. When Shelton (6'3", 245 pounds) was drafted by the Panthers in the 2nd round this year, everyone figured he would be the heir apparent. And that may prove true, but in camp he's done little to instill confidence in the coaches or fans. As a result, Jamal Robertson has worked his way into the mix, potentially as DeShaun Foster's backup on opening kickoff. Robertson is somewhat of an enigma, having backed up disappointing Kevan Barlow in SF but never really showing enough to displace him. Robertson has looked like a man possessed this preseason having entered training camp barely a blip on the fantasy radar screen. We would be remiss to ignore Nick Goings either. Goings was last year's surprising hero, and although the team wants him to play fullback this year, the injury situation has caused him to get reps at tailback too. All of these guys would be attractive options if Davis and Foster were sidelined. The Panthers LOVE to run the ball, their defense should allow them to control the clock, and they made moves to bolster the offensive line after a down season in 2004.


  • The Panthers are committed to the running game and made overtures to improve their O-Line this season
  • Jake Delhomme and his cadre of receivers are too talented for teams to stack 8 in the box with regularity
  • Whichever back gets PT, they'll probably outperform their ADP


  • How you can discount 30 missed games in 3 years (Foster) or microfracture surgery (Davis) is beyond me
  • The team could ultimately use a committee approach, making it difficult to justify rostering any of the backs at their current ADPs

Final Thoughts

This situation is a mess. Most assume that DeShaun Foster will be the starter and play for most, if not all, of the season. If he does that, he's probably worth the 4th round pick it's going to cost you according to Antsports. Personally, there is NO WAY I take Foster in the 4th round. Now, if he falls into the 5th, 6th or 7th rounds of your draft? That would pique my interest. As to the others, I can't justify selecting Davis unless you have deep rosters. Until I see someone come back from microfracture and last more than a few games, it's just not something I'm going to make a bet on during my drafts. Shelton is the most obvious option as a rookie 2nd rounder with a bruising inside running style, but he is "raw" according to several team sources. Which leaves us with Jamal Robertson and Nick Goings. Would I draft either in a standard 10- or 12-team league? No, but then again I probably wouldn't draft any Panther RB unless they fell below their current ADPs.

Cecil Lammey's Thoughts

DeShaun Foster finally gets his chance to start over Stephen Davis. Foster came into the league in 2002, and looked to take the league by storm. Unfortunately for him, injuries and the presence of Stephen Davis led to him riding the bench or being on IR. Last season, Davis only played in two games. It was then time for Foster to shine, but he also got injured and missed most of the season. Converted FB Nick Goings arrived on the scene and helped the Panthers stay alive in the playoff chase, only to fall short. Entering this year, Foster starts the season as the first string RB. But not only does he have to stave off Davis and Goings. The Panthers went out and drafted the TD machine Eric Shelton out of Louisville. All of the Carolina RBís bring their own something special to the table.

DeShaun Foster is perhaps the most talented of the group. Heís a productive and versatile runner thatís had to overcome fumbling and injury problems. He has great vision and a good burst to the hole. He runs with a lot of power and can lower his head to get the tough yards. He has good forward lean when he runs and always falls forward to gain positive yardage. He does run a bit upright, which increases his injury risk.

Stephen Davis is the most experienced of the corps. He has four 1,000 yard seasons to his credit, including three seasons over 1,400 yards. He doesnít have the speed of Foster, but he has all the power and then some. He excels at short yardage and goal line situations. And for a big power back, he is a decent receiver out of the backfield. Microfracture problems with his knee might completely de-rail this once promising career.

Eric Shelton is the powerful rookie. As aforementioned he is a TD machine, scoring 20 TDís last year for Louisville. He originally started his collegiate career at Florida State, but transferred to Louisville for more playing time. He is a patient runner with good vision, allowing him to wait for the right hole to open up. Of course, he has the power to create his own hole if need be. He runs through arm tackles and picks up plenty of yards after initial contact.


  • Power, power, and more power. All the backs can punish a defense
  • Red zone domination. Get this group close the end zone and theyíll score
  • Gamebreaking ability. They all can grind it out, plus make some long runs
  • Youth & experience. This group has plenty of both


  • Injuries are a concern for Foster & Davis
  • Average receivers out of the backfield
  • Not overly quick or fast

Final Thoughts

This group could go either way. Foster and Davis could each get significant time. Foster could get most of the time. Foster, Davis, and Shelton could all get time. Itís really anybodyís guess at this point. Either way, the Panthers are dedicated to the run and will rely on whomever they put in the backfield. At this point it looks as though Foster will start the season as the #1 back. If Davis cannot contribute, then it will be up to Shelton to help ease the burden on Foster. Shelton is likely to get some short yardage and goal line work to keep Foster fresh. DeShaun is an unrestricted free agent after this season, so he is hoping for a big season in 2005, which will lead to a big payday in 2006. Shelton is the perfect RB for this system, and is expected to take over by next year at the latest.

Quotations from the Message Board Thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Foster is a guy that I am eying in most of my drafts. I think he has all the skills needed to be an excellent back, and this year he will be given the opportunity to shine. The Panthers D should be improved, which should allow them to rely on the run game a little more. I am a little concerned about the goal line carries, but still feel like Foster is way undervalued.

It amazes me how hyped up Foster was last year and how forgotten he seems to be this year. I scooped him up in the 6th and am thrilled with that. I generally don't subscribe to the theory that past injuries indicate future injuries.

I agree that his numbers are not great. I even agree that he is an injury concern. But to my way of drafting, I try to reduce risk with my main starters and increase risk/reward with my back-ups.

Eric Shelton Projections

Jason Wood1355804201301
Cecil Lammey155700107650
Message Board Consensus203838126400

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