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Dec 17

Looking ahead: Jamaal Charles as next year’s #1 fantasy pick?

With five touchdowns against the Raiders Jamaal Charles ran his way to the top of the RB leaderboard and our draft watch list for 2014 (Photo: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

With five touchdowns against the Raiders Jamaal Charles ran his way to the top of the RB leaderboard and our draft watch list for 2014 (Photo: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Perhaps I’m taken by the history of the day we witnessed from Jamaal Charles, or perhaps I’m looking forward to next season simply because I faced him in my ‘big’ league this week.

Either way, the Kansas City Running Back is making his case for fantasy MVP as the season draws to a close and he’s leaving us with some interesting questions heading into next season. Is Charles next year’s number one back?

After this weekend’s dominant outing – and we could discuss it from all angles, but there really doesn’t need to be much breakdown, Charles was awesome reeling in passes on routes of different complexity (8/8 on his targets) and becoming the first RB to score four receiving touchdowns in a game – Charles sits well atop the RB leader board, with 287.6 points in standard settings, 56 points clear of LeSean McCoy. Even without this weekend’s game, he was the top RB coming in.

Each back played 2013 in a new offense, and we looked at both McCoy and Charles in their respective environments before the season but really didn’t know how they’d be used until the product took the field. Now, heading into the 2014 offseason, each will have played a full year in their new system and their workload will be predictable. While a number of variables such as the draft, free agency, and injuries will play into the precise role of each player heading into 2014 – along with the return from injury of Doug Martin who will rejoin a Tampa Bay offense that blocked well for any of the various unheardofs they threw in there, and the looming changes in Minnesota revolving around AP’s status and the QB position – it is worth thinking ahead to next year in light of the championship shot Charles just hand delivered to those who invested in him.

Last night, Mike Omelan and I discussed the matter briefly at the outset of our Inside the Locker Room Broadcast – take a look.

This year Charles likely left your draft board somewhere around the top five after Adrian Peterson and in the range of Doug Martin, Arian Foster (a couple of busts), LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice (another bust). Of the group, Charles and McCoy have easily been the most consistent, but Adrian Peterson hasn’t really shown signs of slowing down.
Of course, there is no right answer, but I’ll present a few facts and then we can start the debate.

Jamaal Charles is having his best season as a pro (an impressive fact, given that he is the all time leader in yards per carry) and leads all running backs in the league through 15 weeks with 655 receiving yards on 98 targets. His 18 combined targets are well clear of Marshawn Lynch in second place.

Shady meanwhile leads the NFL in yards rushing and total yards (by seven at the moment over Charles) with 1850. Chip Kelly has shown a strong allegiance to his top back, keeping Bryce Brown limited to a handful of carries each week, though Chris Polk’s late season emergence and the 2014 draft may change the distribution a bit in 2014. He’ll easily have a career high in both carries and touches, and in the RB game we love volume.

Charles has 65 receptions (behind just Matt Forte) and McCoy has 45. Both significant totals, and through 15 weeks each has over 310 touches suggesting a final tally of in excess of 350 if both play full games the rest of the way. Charles has been used frequently, but judiciously. Despite an anticipated career high in touches this season, he’ll have fewer carries than in 2012 which means, generally speaking, fewer tough hits to absorb up the middle.

And then there is Peterson, let’s not forget last year’s 2000 yard man who is putting together another impressive campaign with 1221 yards rushing and 11 total touchdowns. Peterson has been the king of consistency in recent years and as we’ve seen from this year’s first round bust rate, that fact can’t be underrated when contemplating the first pick. Peterson will turn 29 this offseason, but his 2013 results suggest he has plenty left in the tank. With that said, his high volume workload has led to frequent dings and questionable status’. We can’t expect that to change next year. With over 2000 career carries there is a lot of tread on those tires.

For me, I’m leaning Charles. Not because of his historic outing this weekend, but because every week has been great. With Andy Reid standing by his man at the goal line, Charles has scored a TD in every game but three so far. In those three games, his lowest total yardage output was 72. The floor has been exceptionally low, and the ceiling was one of the greatest individual performances you will ever see.

4 comments

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  1. jack

    harbaugh did not want colin to do a kneel down with 22 seconds left during fantasy playoff weeks.
    http://goo.gl/kdH1wa

    1. Jon Collins

      Weirdest spam post ever, but we’re gonna leave this one because you can buy a jam signed football for 50 bucks at the jump.

  2. mike allan

    Hi Jon. i think his floor should be exceptionally high,cheers Mike

    1. Jon Collins

      It’s all just foolish projecting at this point anyway, but fun to think about. Thanks for reading Mike. The floor was definitely high this season, 7.2 his lowest point outing. I haven’t checked but I’m guessing that’s probably the tops of any back who has played 10+ games.

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