My Distrust of Jamaal Charles

Coming up soon Game Of Inches will post their running back rankings but for now I would like to discuss my stance on Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles. (EDITOR'S NOTE: You can now view GOI's RB rankings here). I do not trust Charles for two reasons. The first is that I loaned him 100 bucks a few years back because he said he needed it the money to help his ailing grandmother and I still have not seen that money to this day. The second reason is that I do not trust his Yards Per Carry (YPC) going forward.

Jamaal Charles currently holds an incredible career 6.0 YPC. In his 2009 breakout season he had a YPC of 5.9 (spending time as both a starter and a back up) and had an incredible 6.4 YPC as a starter in 2010.

At the end of the 2009 season fantasy owners were clamoring at the chance to draft Charles. Then the Chiefs signed Thomas Jones and Charles' value deflated to being drafted out of the first round and to not being a top ten running back. But the fantasy owners who continued their faith in Charles were heavily rewarded when Jamaal Charles ended up the third best fantasy running back in 2010.

However, I am still down on Charles. He has now proven to me that he is just a stud on the field and a top 10 fantasy running back- even with Thomas Jones there. Despite the double headed threat of Charles and Thomas, Jamaal Charles still got as many carries as guys like Run DMC (Darren McFadden) and Matt Forte. Sure, as a fantasy owner I would like to see him get more than the 11-15 he averaged per game in 2010, but with Charles' high YPC and explosive talent, fantasy owners did not mind as much last year.

But now what scares me going forward is that I believe Jamaal Chalres' YPC will decrease.

I was joking around with fellow Game Of Inches author The 'Bright' One about my fear when he said "What, his YPC will drop down to 5.3?" Well... yes. Certainly if I were a Kansas City Chiefs fan I would take a 5.0+ YPC in a heartbeat and anyone who has seen Charles play (including that pitiful playoff game the Chiefs played where Charles has an amazing 9.11 YPC- but only off of 9 rushing attempts) knows just what a great physical runner Charles is. There is no doubt in my mind that Charles will have a YPC over 5.0 next year. However, this creates a huge problem for fantasy owners because Charles needs an extremely high YPC to make up for his low amount of touches.

In 2009 the great Chris Johnson *only* had a YPC of 5.6 which decreased to 4.3 in 2010 which in turn hurt Johnson's fantasy value. While CJ ended up as a top five fantasy running back, he still was a disappointment last year. (Just ask anyone who drafted Johnson #1 overall and they'll agree with me.) Defenders would respond to this argument by saying that it was easier to defend Johnson by just stacking the box considering the QB carousel that happened in Tennessee with guys like Rusty Nail (excuse me, Rusty Smith) at the helm at QB.

However, I think that same argument could be made for Matt Cassel next season. Matt Cassel had a great 2010 campaign and earned a deserving berth to the Pro Bowl. However, what Cassel had last year that I do not believe he will have in 2011 is the ability to play against inferior competition. The Kansas City Chiefs had an extremely weak schedule (in terms of passing defense) once they played the horrific secondary of the Houston Texans in Week Six and got to play the great and almighty secondaries of Denver (twice), Jacksonville, Seattle, and San Francisco- all of whom were in the bottom ten in terms of passing defense. Just ask any Dwayne Bowe owner last year- his amazing season did not start until his 108 yards / 2 TD game against Houston (I know because a person in my league benched him for that start because Bowe looked and was atrocious from weeks 1-5). My point is, with tougher passing defenses to play in 2011, Charles will not have the luxury of Matt Cassel and Dwayne Bowe taking defenders away from him like they did last year and I can see that affecting his YPC in 2011 like it did Chris Johnson in 2010.

"So What?" you may be asking yourselves. "All you have told me is that Charles will have tougher competition, but I don't care, Charles is a stud and that's all that matters." True, Charles is a stud, but let me show you why a lower YPC matters.

Last year, Charles ran for 1467 yards. This was good enough to be the second best rusher in the league only to Arian Foster. Now let's say his YPC does drop to 5.3. I do not believe his carries will increase because Thomas Jones is still there. Plus, Kansas City far and away led the league in rushing attempts with 556 and you rarely (if ever) see a team repeat from year to year being the leader in rushing attempts. If anything I would assume his carries would go down more than go up just because the amount of carries Kansas City has to offer will decrease next season. Charles was amazing at the end of 2009 as well as last year and he still rarely got more than 15 carries a game.

Let us now assume Charles does get the same amount of carries as he did last year- 230. You take that amount of carries and add it to *only* a 5.3 YPC and you get 1,219 rushing yards. Still extremely good, but that would now drop him to the tenth best runner last year behind Ray Rice.

You add to this *low* yard total the fact that Charles does not score touchdowns and you have a recipe for a bust if you draft him high. Despite Charles' explosiveness Charles only had five rushing touchdowns and only three of them came within the first thirteen weeks of the season (before most fantasy playoffs began). Charles only had eight touchdowns total (5 rushing, 3 receiving) which was behind top studs like AD, CJ, BJGE, Arian Foster, and Michael Turner's rushing touchdown totals.

Now touchdowns are a finicky thing. There are extremely volatile and unpredictable from year to year. It's extremely possible that Charles' gets 13 total touchdowns next year which will more than make up for his decrease in rushing yards. However, guys who tend to score a lot of touchdowns tend to do so year to year and guys who do not tend to not. While it is most certainly within the realm of possibility that Jamaal Charles gets more touchdowns next year, it seems unlikely that he would with a decrease in yards per carry and the fact that Thomas Jones is still there to vulture touchdowns away. In fact, because of Thomas Jones, Charles' TD/carry dropped from 2009 to 2010 even though he gained the full time starter job for all 16 games in 2010.

Last year, if you assume that Charles got the same number of carries, the same number of touchdowns, the same number of fumbles, and the same number of receiving yards (in the same weeks he got them in) but you drop his YPC from 6.4 to 5.3 he would have scored 205 fantasy points- which would have dropped him down from 3rd to t-8th. Again, still really good, but there's one more assumption that we didn't address that now needs to be factored into the equation: Charles' receiving totals.

Last year Charles had 45 catches for 468 yards. Those receiving totals added an extra 40 points to his fantasy total (despite the fact that overall 468 yards = 46 fantasy points, if you look back at Charles' game log you will notice, as with all fantasy players, that he did not get even receiving yard totals week to week. So say Charles got 17 receiving yards in Week One and 3 receiving yards in Week Two that actually only amounts to 1 fantasy point for the two weeks even though if you combine them it would appear as if you would get 2 fantasy points). And as mentioned earlier with what I believe will be an inferior passing attack for the Chiefs from 2010 to 2011, I expect Charles' passing numbers to decrease a bit as well.

Certainly a 5.3 YPC is an arbitrary number. That would be a 1.1 YPC drop for Charles. Ray Rice dropped 1.3 YPC from 2009 to 2010. The same with Chris Johnson. Rashard Mendenhall dropped 0.7. Matt Forte gained 0.9 YPC. Even though I just picked 5.3 out of thin air, my point remains that I think Charles YPC will drop and I think it will drop significantly to the point that his fantasy value will drop from his amazing 2010 campaign.

As mentioned earlier in the article, if Jamaal Charles did have a 5.3 YPC last year that would put him tied as the eighth best fantasy running back. This is still really good. Despite what may appear to be me bashing him in this article I merely just meant to point out that I think you should temper your expectations on him coming into the 2011 season (if there is a 2011 season). On a recent Article of the Day on FFSpin, Fantasy Sharks suggested that you draft Charles #4 overall. I have to respectfully disagree with my colleagues. In my rankings, soon to come out, I ranked Charles as my seventh best running back. This is still a dive from the #3 spot he ended at last year but also still a #1 RB in all leagues deeper than the ones the guys play in on the FX show The League.

I think Charles will still be good in 2011 and I think Charles will still be a productive fantasy running back in 2011 but what I do think is Charles will not be as productive (on a per game basis) in 2011 as he was in 2010. Now if he could only pay back the money he owes me I would greatly appreciate it.


Cubsfan4evr said...

You know I disagree with you on Jamal Charles. I think this will be his breakout year. KC has been limiting his carries because they know he is their best player and they don't want to run him into the ground like Tennessee is with Chris Johnson. I don't think KC will either this year, but I do think they will let off the training wheels this year. Thomas Jones is getting older and I think Charles will keep on getting more carries. In addition I think his TD will go up, even though they are hard to predict. I feel a board bet coming on when the season gets closer..........