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Player Spotlight: Jamaal Charles

A detailed look at the fantasy prospects of Jamaal Charles for 2013

Outside of an injury-shortened 2011, Charles has been durable (63-of-64 games played in four other seasons) and one of the most dynamic players in NFL history. In fact, Charles has the highest yards-per-carry average all-time among running backs with 500 or more career carries at 5.79. Only three other backs have an average greater than 5.0 over the 500-carry threshold: Bo Jackson, Mercury Morris, and Adrian Peterson. In short, Charles has been only limited by his usage through five seasons. The Kansas City offense has been adequate at best during most of Charles’ career. Charles returned from an ACL tear early in 2011 to have a stellar season in 2012, rushing for more than 1,500 yards, top-5 in the NFL. The other backs to surpass 1,500 yards all had more than twice the touchdowns of Jamaal Charles. Kansas City’s use of Charles, or lack thereof, in the red zone has long been a hindrance to achieving his potential ceiling of production. The charts below show the last three seasons (excluding Charles’ single full game in 2011) of Charles in Kansas City and new head coach Andy Reid’s use of LeSean McCoy in Philadelphia:

Jamaal Charles Goal Line Carries (2010-2012)

 IINSIDE 10-Yard LineINSIDE 5-Yard Line
 RB CARRY%RB CARRY%
2010 32% 22%
2012 44% 29%

LeSean McCoy Goal Line Carries (2010-2012)

 INSIDE 10-Yard LineINSIDE 5-Yard Line
 RB CARRY%RB CARRY%
2010 84% 86%
2011 76% 78%
2012 52% 50%

While Charles saw an increase in his share of the running back carries in 2012, it was still well-below that of the lowest season of LeSean McCoy, which was 2012 when Bryce Brown was added to the mix. This is a positive sign for Charles under the new regime as Thomas Jones and Peyton Hillis, two of the goal line vultures in prior seasons, are no longer on the roster. Andy Reid has not been shy about using McCoy close to the goal line. Those added opportunities, in addition to Charles’ big-play potential from anywhere on the field, give him a good chance for a career-high in touchdowns in 2013. In the passing game, the offenses of Andy Reid have been very favorable for running backs. In fact, LeSean McCoy had a three-year low of 67 targets in 2012 and that was with missing four games. Jamaal Charles has yet to surpass 64 targets in a season, another reason for optimism in the new Kansas City offense. The Kansas City target breakdown from 2012 looks quite a bit like that of the Eagles. Both teams spread the ball around without a dominant wide receiver target, leading to plenty of opportunity for the running backs.

One final comparison between LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles: Charles had a frustrating three games with fewer than ten carries last season, while McCoy's lowest carry total in a game was 13 in 2012. McCoy had a higher floor of use on a weekly basis even with a strong reserve back in Bryce Brown behind him. Rookie Knile Davis has some potential as a size-speed prospect behind Charles this season, but outside of his fast development to the NFL game, the options are few in the Kansas City backfield. In terms of a running back's career arc, Jamaal Charles enters his sixth NFL season, historically producing the highest ratio of stud seasons compared to disappointing fantasy performances.

POSITIVES

  • Charles has been one of the most efficient running backs in NFL history, averaging at least 5.3 yards per carry in every season
  • Alex Smith at quarterback and Andy Reid as head coach mark significant upgrades for the Chiefs offense
  • Charles appears to have far less competition for touches this year without the likes of Thomas Jones or Peyton Hillis

NEGATIVES

  • Charles has not been used as much as typical lead backs near the goal line in his career, as evidenced by his single season high of just 8 touchdowns
  • The Chiefs were one of the most anemic offenses in the league last year, and most of the same offensive pieces return in 2013
  • A staggering 80% of Charles' rushing touchdowns came outside the red zone a season ago, a figure that is very likely to decline the following season

PROJECTIONS

ProjectionsRushRuYdsRuTDRecRecYdsRecTD
Footballguys Staff Consensus 263 1309 7 54 400 2
Message Board Consensus 278 1458 8 62 513 3

FINAL THOUGHTS

Andy Reid has utilized backs like Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy to perfection in his offense, which translates well to Jamaal Charles. Charles has an average draft position in the mid-first round, where tremendous value lies at the running back position this year. Owners that draw a spot in that range can easily pace those with top draft positions in the early rounds. Charles has as much upside as any running back in fantasy this year and is a worthy selection for any team to start their draft.


QUOTATIONS FROM THE MESSAGE BOARD THREAD

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread in the Shark Pool, click here.

Fightingillini said:

There are only a few RBs capable of 2000 rushing yards. Charles is one of them. I can't see him being available past pick 7 in any league this year.

Shutout said:

I think the one thing that Charles can consistently do much better than Shady and probably much better than anyone in the league other than about 3 other rbs, is he can absolutely blister you on back to back plays, multiple times in a game and that is what gives the opportunity for the gaudy stat lines. It is part of the reason why he has the highest career ypc among RBs who have any sizeable body of work and I believe it is part of the reason why he can be a player who can get to those numbers without 24+ carries every week.

Charles, to me, is one of those 3-4 guys in the league that give me the heebie jeebies like Barry Sanders used to. You play against him one week and you watch that stat line and 40 minutes in it might read 20 rushes for 42 yards. And then you come back 10 minutes later and its 23/162/2. I think he has the best surroundings/coach/opportunity situation he has ever had and it will show this year.

Ghost Rider said:

Charles is such a yardage monster that he doesn't need to score double digit touchdowns to still be a top 5 RB. And if he does, my goodness, the possibilities are scary.

Adam Harstad said:

Brian Westbrook
2004 - 250 touches in 13 games = 19.2 touches per game
2005 - 217 touches in 12 games = 18.0 touches per game
2006 - 317 touches in 15 games = 21.1 touches per game
2007 - 368 touches in 15 games = 24.5 touches per game
2008 - 287 touches in 14 games = 20.5 touches per game

LeSean McCoy
2010 - 285 touches in 15 games = 19.0 touches per game
2011 - 321 touches in 15 games = 21.4 touches per game
2012 - 254 touches in 12 games = 21.2 touches per game

Prior to 2004, we were dealing with RBs like Duce Staley and Correll Buckhalter, who I hardly think are relevant to Jamaal Charles. In 2009, Westbrook was broken down but McCoy was still a rookie, and the entire Philly RB situation was pretty unproductive. Other than that, we're looking at 20+ touches in 5 out of 8 seasons (and 21+ in 4 out of 8). 

As for threatening the 300 point mark... From 2004-2008, Brian Westbrook averaged about 335 points per 16 games in PPR. Over the last three years, McCoy has averaged about 310 points per 16 games in PPR. Kansas City may not be Philadelphia, but the 300 point threshold has historically been very achievable for Andy Reid's RBs in PPR.


More from Chad Parsons:

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Dynasty Depth Chart Diving: AFC Wide Receivers - July 3
Dynasty Depth Chart Diving: NFC Running Backs - July 2
Dynasty Depth Chart Diving: AFC Running Backs - June 24
2014 Undrafted Tight End Watchlist - May 28
2014 Rookie Primer Part 7: Post-Combine Wide Receivers - April 10
2014 Rookie Primer Part 6: Post-Combine Running Backs - March 22
2014 Rookie Primer Part 5: Post-Combine Tight Ends - March 3