- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
There hasn't been a whole lot of buzz this week about Carolina Panthers third-string running back Mike Goodson rushing for (precisely) 100 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 10. Perhaps that's because he was actually active in a very small percentage of ESPN standard leagues for that performance. In fact, he's probably still a free agent in your league; he's owned in just 7.2 percent of ESPN standard leagues as I type this. But the fact is, a Carolina running back finally did something. Let's celebrate! And why should we assume Goodson can't keep this up?
Well, now that 2010 disappointment DeAngelo Williams has been placed on injured reserve by the Panthers, Goodson becomes a bit more interesting. No, my expectations aren't through the roof despite the 100-yard game, but I did rank Goodson No. 32 this week, because let's face it, he should get opportunity, no matter what ends up happening with underachieving Jonathan Stewart.
The fact is neither Williams nor Stewart has rushed for 100 yards in any games this season, a clear indictment of the team's mess at quarterback and on the offensive line, but then, out of nowhere, Goodson managed to do it. That said, the Buccaneers, despite being one of the league's surprise teams, have actually been extremely giving to opposing running backs for fantasy purposes, ranking fourth-easiest to accrue standard points against. I wouldn't say it officially explains Goodson's game -- maybe Williams or Stewart could have done the same thing -- but it also doesn't mean Goodson can't succeed against a better defense.
I'd add Goodson in pretty much all fantasy formats at this point because anyone getting significant carries should warrant fantasy attention. I wouldn't call this the week to activate him, though; the Baltimore Ravens' defense is not producing much at all for fantasy leagues, ranking 24th in standard scoring, but that D is not easy to run on, either, ranking fourth-toughest for opposing running backs in fantasy. Plus, even if Goodson is the starter, there remains the threat that he will cede goal-line opportunities to Josh Vaughan, like he did in Week 10. In fact, we really can't assume there will even be many goal-line opportunities for the 1-8 Panthers, who rank last in total offense.
So there's a cold bucket of water; add Goodson, but don't expect to use him yet. We need to see if this offense can get going and see what happens with Stewart, who was awful before suffering a concussion. Plus, we still don't know a whole lot about Goodson, other than he has averaged 3.3 yards per carry in his two seasons in the NFL and wasn't exactly a star at Texas A&M.
As for Williams, there's obviously no need to own him anymore in one-year leagues, but the decision is difficult in keeper situations. Can I definitively state today that Williams will be in my top 20 running backs for next season, even presuming there aren't other backfield threats on the Panthers? Yes, unless something odd occurs, I can. Williams' 2010 season ends due to a mid-foot sprain, so I'm not particularly concerned it's an injury that he'll carry into next summer, and we should remember how talented this fellow is. Not too long ago (in 2008), Williams ran for 1,515 yards and scored 20 touchdowns. Even in 2009, he was hardly bad, averaging 5.2 yards per carry and scoring seven touchdowns in 13 games, but injury and Stewart's involvement diminished his fantasy value. This is a potentially dominant running back, and he's only 27 years old. I can understand not regarding him as one of the top-10 RB keepers anymore, but he's probably in my 12-15 range and a likely late second-round draft pick.