Panthers fantasy question: Can Williams duplicate his 2008 success?

Panthers' burning fantasy question:Can DeAngelo Williams duplicate his 2008 success?

Fantasy leaguers who landed Williams last season looked like absolute geniuses. No one doubted his talent, but it was hard to project a true breakout season from a running back who couldn't pass DeShaun Foster on the depth chart in his first two seasons at the pro level.

Panthers' top 5 fantasy players

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Sleeper: Stewart

Furthermore, Williams had never even rushed for 725 yards or more than four touchdowns in a season before 2008.

And when the Panthers selected talented Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart in the 2008 NFL Draft, Williams' value appeared to have fallen even further. That was evident in drafts, as Stewart was taken ahead of Williams in most seasonal and keeper formats.

In fact, Stewart was owned and started in more NFL.com leagues for the first eight weeks of the season.

That didn't keep Williams from emerging as the top-scoring running back in fantasy football.

He exploded in the second half of the season, rushing for 100-plus yards six times and scoring an impressive 15 touchdowns over his final eight contests. Williams was also an absolute beast in the fantasy postseason, rushing for a combined 382 yards and seven touchdowns.

His final stat line would include 1,515 rushing yards and an incredible 20 total touchdowns. Those totals surpassed the combined numbers from his previous two seasons, during which time he rushed for just 1,218 yards and scored a total of seven times.

Based on that level of statistical success, Williams is almost certain to be taken in the first round of just about every fantasy draft in 2009. But how close he can come to duplicating his 2008 numbers will be a serious point of contention over the summer months.

If we look at the past, though, it seems Williams is a virtual lock to see his touchdown totals decrease.

There have been 18 running backs to score 20 or more times in a single season. Our research doesn't include one of them, Jim Brown, who scored 21 total touchdowns in 1965 but retired before the start of the following season. Minus the Hall of Famer Brown, the other 17 runners averaged an impressive 22.7 touchdowns. Those same 17 runners averaged just 13.2 touchdowns the next season.

That's a 41.9 percent decrease in touchdown production.

It's also important to note that Williams scored 11 of his 20 touchdowns in three games, finding the end zone three times against the Chiefs and four times in contests against the Packers and Giants. Such performance are rare and likely won't be duplicated again.

Williams will also continue to lose carries to Stewart, who scored 10 touchdowns of his own and should see more work in 2009.

This isn't to suggest that Williams will be a complete disappointment, because that's not the case. The Panthers will continue to lean on Williams and the running game, so he'll have more than his share of opportunities to produce good numbers for coach John Fox and fantasy owners alike.

But rather than expect him to replicate his amazing 2008 totals, owners instead need to lower their expectations for Williams. In fact, a season with 1,200-1,300 rushing yards and 12-15 touchdowns should be considered a tremendous success for Williams.

Have a burning question for Michael Fabiano on anything fantasy football related? Leave it in our comments section below or send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com, and the best questions will be answered throughout the season right here on NFL.com!

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