Very Deep Sleepers: Brandon Wegher (Panthers)
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If you’re in the Carolina backfield ‘handcuff’ business, you either (a) own Jonathan Stewart and you’re wanting to lock up his ‘handcuff’…because JStew has played a full 16 games in a season just once in the past six campaigns, or (b) you do not possess Stewart, but are well aware that he is ‘at risk’ of being out, given his history. You’re wanting to vulture the Panthers’ ‘handcuff’ late in a fantasy redraft, or stash for evil dynasty purposes down the road.
Those in the Carolina ‘handcuff’ chase are assuredly in the Cameron Artis-Payne camp – the universally accepted Stewart ‘handcuff.’ However, I’m in the Brandon Wegher camp, and that camp is tiny…one small tent at a remote location not showing up on any GPS. Artis-Payne is currently tracking with a #77 ADP (PPR) among all running backs among the FantasyPros expert consensus. Wegher is ranked with the coveted ‘n/a’ ADP.
If you watched the Panthers’ preseason games last year, you would have borne witness to an inconvenient truth – Brandon Wegher is a better NFL running back prospect than Cameron Artis-Payne, and that’s not a slam on Artis-Payne. Wegher’s play was so strong last preseason that it forced the Panthers to put the undrafted rookie out of Morningstar College on the 53-man roster. Carolina could not risk Wegher getting poached after 31 total touches for 157 total yards and three touchdowns, a TD every 10.3 touches in the preseason.
It’s been a strange and twisted path for Wegher to even make it to his current ‘n/a’ ADP status among fantasy running backs in 2016.
His football career started out like a dream. Wegher was to be the savior of the Iowa Hawkeyes’ running game in 2009. The four-star recruit ran for 101 yards in his true-freshman debut vs. rival Iowa State. He would end his first college campaign with a 113-yard rushing effort in a bowl game win over Georgia Tech. He set an Iowa freshman record rushing for eight touchdowns that season. Visions of a future Heisman campaign danced in the heads of Iowa fans, and Iowa coaches.
It would be Wegher’s only season of play for Iowa. This is about to get messy:
- He abruptly up and left the Iowa program two days into his sophomore year’s training camp. He virtually disappeared, and then asked for his scholarship release a few months later.
- Wegher transferred to Oklahoma for a moment, but was quickly declared ineligible to play by the NCAA. He left the Sooners program.
- He then went to Iowa Western Community College (IWCC) to get his grades in order, but failed to qualify academically there as well, and thus was ruled ineligible to play football that season.
- Sometime after being declared ineligible at IWCC, Wegher was arrested for public intoxication and eluding police. About five months later, he was arrested for domestic abuse – a fight with his brother.
- Wegher disappeared off everyone’s football radar, as he worked in mining and construction for a few years.
After three years away, Wegher went back to play football. Given a chance to play at NAIA Morningside College in 2013, he did what you would expect a former four-star recruit, freshman sensation in the Big Ten to do – crush every record the school had. Morningside won back-to-back championships behind Wegher, who became the school’s all-time everything. In his final season (2014), in 13 games, he produced 2,610 rushing yards (200.8 yards per game) and scored 43 total touchdowns.
His NFL Draft prospect status had been too far damaged…no NFL Combine invite and he went undrafted in 2015. The Panthers gave him a shot after the draft, and he performed so well in the preseason that he pushed his way onto the roster. Eventually, he was activated in Week 17 (but didn’t touch the ball).
I scouted everything Wegher did last preseason, and he ‘belongs.’ He runs with toughness, grit and a nice burst/urgency when he touches the ball. He has nice hands for the passing game out of the backfield. He plays like it’s ‘life and death,’ and to some degree it is for him. He’s a little-better-than-average athlete among NFL running backs, but runs/plays tougher than most. Wegher is a ‘little more’ of everything than Artis-Payne…a little faster, a little stronger, a little better in the pass game. I’ve been slowly moving Wegher ‘a little higher’ in my 2016 fantasy football draft guide projections over the past two months in anticipation that he’ll make another leap in this year’s training camp.
Looking for a dark horse fantasy play on the Panthers’ RB situation? Watch what Wegher does in the preseason 2016. He may just emerge out of it as the No. 2 running back behind Jonathan Stewart.
For a quick glimpse of Brandon Wegher‘s preseason splash onto the scene in his first preseason game. The Wegher highlight is at the 2:49 mark