Jamaal Charles was one of a handful of running backs in the discussion this offseason of running backs that could break through and be top performers in 2013. While many of those other running backs have struggled for one reason or another, Charles has thrived and is the likely top rusher in most fantasy leagues right now. The road getting here however, hasn’t been easy for Charles.
Drafted back in 2008 in the third round by the Chiefs, Charles wasn’t seen as an every down back, but as a running back who could spell the team’s starter, or be a change of pace back. Charles could work the outside, catch a ball in space, and explode down-field! Indeed, the Chiefs had a place for Charles on their team, joining the great Larry Johnson to form what was hoped to be a dynamic duo. In Charles’ rookie season, the Chiefs were still leaning on Johnson in the rushing attack. So, Charles touched the ball just 94 times for what looked like a meager 629 all-purpose yards. What was impressive about those numbers, however, was Charles’ production. On limited touches, Charles averaged 5.3 yards per rush and 10.1 yards per reception! These were the kind of numbers that were turning heads and making coaches think about how to change offenses to utilize players like Charles, more and more.
In 2009, Larry Johnson was released by the Chiefs about half way into the season after a terrible beginning. Suddenly, Charles became the team’s starter and his touches ballooned to 230 touches for 1,120 yards rushing and 297 yards receiving. Charles was now rushing for a dizzying 5.9 yards per carry. This looked like Jamaal Charles’ team going forward. Unfortunately, teams still wanted the 300 to 350 touch, traditional running back. Or at least, teams like the Chiefs seemed inclined to have two good running backs, one more traditional like Larry Johnson (and Priest Holmes before him), and one more like Charles. Whatever the case, in 2010 the Chiefs signed workhorse RB Thomas Jones.
At the time, no one really understood how Jones and Charles would affect each other’s production. Charles was expected to get the majority of work, which he did. Rather than cancel each other out, Jones and Charles thrived! Even though Jones didn not have 290-plus touches like he did in his five previous seasons, he had 259 touches and produced 1,1018 all-purpose yards for 6 touchdowns. For Charles’ part, he had his best season as a pro: 275 touches, 1,467 rush yards, 468 receiving yards for 8 touchdowns. His averages ballooned to 6.4 yards per carry and 10.4 yards per reception. Seemingly, a fantasy football star was born! Going into the 2011 season, Charles was one of the most highly touted running backs in fantasy football drafts. It seemed Charles was the key to a fantasy football championship that season. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, that wasn’t the case.
In the second game of the 2011 season against the Lions, Charles took a carry to the outside for a three or four yard gain. As he went to step out of bounds, while outstretching his right leg, Charles tore the ACL in his left knee. Seemingly untouched by anyone as he stepped out of bounds, it was as if ‘Lady Luck’ came down and snatched Charles’ leg right form underneath him. For many, the hopes of a fantasy football championship were dashed, and for Charles, his future uncertain. Thankfully, with the advances in medicine, Charles came back strong the following season in 2012. Wildly unheralded, Charles had the most touches of his career (320) with his second highest yardage totals (1,745), but most rushing ottals (1.509). This seemed lost on everyone though, as the Chiefs just weren’t very good, finishing the season with the league’s worst record (2-14) and least points scored (211/13.2 per game). In the offseason, the Chiefs, an already wildly talented team, brought in Coach Andy Reid and drafted the No. 1 tackle prospect in the 2013 draft. The Chiefs are the only undefeated team left in the league right now.
This season, while Charles’ per carry average is the lowest it has been in his career, Jamaal Charles is on pace to touch the football 300-plus times and to total over 2,000 all-purpose yards! Better yet, at the current pace, Charles is in line to score 16 touchdowns. Charles is second in rush yards, first in receiving yards, and for running backs, second in rush attempts, first in receptions. It is no small task for Charles considering he makes up about 36% of the Chiefs total offense, and 25% of the team’s points scored. Amazing!
In Week 9, the Chiefs play a Bills team which is giving up an average of about 130 all-purpose yards to opposing running backs. The Bills have allowed only two rushing touchdowns this season. Charles should score No. 3 and be in line for around 125 to 130 all-purpose yards. Yet again, Charles should finish top five or top six among all running backs in Week 9. People notice Charles now.
For more Top 5 starts at the quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, kicker, and defense/special team positions, visit TheFantasyGreek.com, “Your Second Opinion For Your Fantasy Football Instinct.”
Written By: Jim Saranteas – @TheFantasyGreek and @JimSaranteas on Twitter
Founder of the fantasy football advice site TheFantasyGreek.com.
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