Why You Need to Draft and Stash Cameron Artis-Payne in Your Fantasy Football Leagues

Artis-Payne is getting no buzz around the fantasy football world. That shouldn't be the case.

Finally. Jonathan Stewart is the top running back on the Carolina Panthers depth chart. And there's no DeAngelo Williams to split carries with.

I always thought that would be the green flag for going all in on Stewart in fantasy football, but unfortunately, we need to pump the brakes before crowning Stewart a top-tier fantasy threat.

He has plenty of competition with Cam Newton for goal line touches, a variable that has capped the upside of Carolina running backs in recent years.

Our initial player projections peg Stewart for just 5.36 touchdowns and the 23rd-most fantasy points at the running back position in 2015.

His average draft position (ADP) according to MyFantasyLeague is as the 27th running back in non-PPR formats. He's 21st on FantasyFootballCalculator.

So you'd be buying Stewart at what is likely his ceiling, and spending top-dollar on players isn't a winning formula.

Meet Cameron Artis-Payne.

Artis-Payne in College

Payne, a 5'11", 212-pound runner, first attended Allan Hancock College in California for two seasons before transferring to Auburn. In his first season in the SEC, Artis-Payne backed up Tre Mason but did accrue 610 yards and 6 touchdowns.

In 2014, he carried the ball 303 times (sixth most in the nation) for 1,608 yards (13th) and 13 touchdowns (tied for 29th). He maintained a yards per carry average of 5.31, which ranked outside the top 100 in the country.

And most of that probably came outside the SEC, right? Well...

Artis-Payne racked up a 5.50 yards per carry against SEC opponents, which ranked fifth among in-conference rushers, according to Artis-Payne also tallied 1,060 yards against SEC opponents, more than any other player in the conference last year, and 6 of his 13 touchdowns came against SEC opponents in eight games.

Artis-Payne also saw 63 carries in the red zone and converted 11 of those for touchdowns, ninth most in the nation.

Most of those numbers are promising, especially considering his SEC opposition, but he fell to the fifth round of the NFL draft.


Converting to the NFL

Well, again, he's only 5'11" and 212 pounds, and he's not very explosive. He ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash, which ranked in the 62nd percentile among running backs this year, according to MockDraftable. His vertical leap (36.5 inches) was better, ranking in the 75th percentile, yet his broad jump (118 inches) was at a middling 50th percentile.

His 3-cone drill and 10-yard dash marks were in 36th and 32nd percentile, respectively.

So it makes sense that he's the third option on the depth chart behind Stewart and Fozzy Whittaker, but Panthers beat reporter David Newton expects Artis-Payne to be the guy if Stewart gets hurt.

Again, Why?

Stewart has enough problems from a fantasy football perspective, but his on-field performance last year wasn't exactly confidence-instilling.

According to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which quantifies a player's performance above or below expectation level, Stewart's rushing lost the Panthers 9.87 points on 176 carries. For context, DeAngelo Williams lost 10.23 on 63 carries. Per carry, Stewart's Rushing NEP was -0.06. Williams' was -0.16.

Whittaker mustered a Rushing NEP of -1.32 on 32 carries (-0.04 per carry), and Darrin Reaves lost more than a touchdown and an extra point worth of progress for the Panthers, posting a Rushing NEP of -7.05 on 32 carries (-0.22 per carry).

Not that they'd turn to Mike Tolbert for a featured role, but on 37 carries, his Rushing NEP was -15.31 (-0.41 per carry).

These are all terrible.

Sure, that means that Artis-Payne may have had a hard time with this offense, too, but there are no standout rushers on the depth chart -- Newton aside. This isn't to suggest that he'll ovetake Stewart without some sort of injury, but the opportunity is there, and we, as sensible fantasy football players, shouldn't overlook the potential to snag a starting running back for no cost at all.

The decision to draft and stash Artis-Payne isn't necessarily one that's predicated on potential or talent or athletic ability. It's just pointing out that he had a solid enough collegiate career in the SEC, that the starting running back on his team has had plenty of injury issues in his past, and that no other back on the roster has shown the potential to be the guy.

Artis-Payne currently is going off the board as the 72nd running back, after Ahmad Bradshaw and Pierre Thomas, neither of whom have an NFL job.

I think we can all agree he has more value than those guys at least.