Fantasy Football Reality Check: Jamaal Charles a 2010 First-Rounder
Each Monday of the fantasy football season, we'll cut through the fantasy numbers put up by individuals and tell you what they really mean.
For the first half of the season, I often spent a sentence or two in this space or during our weekly podcasts wondering aloud why Chiefs head coach hadn't yet passed the torch from Larry Johnson to Jamaal Charles in the backfield. I never got my answer, as Charles has excelled with his chance as the every down back for Kansas City.
Now, I'm ready to take another step with Charles. He's a top-10 running back next season, which will have him landing in the first round of many drafts.
Think about it, what running backs would you definitely rather have than Charles? Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, Frank Gore and Steven Jackson. Probably. Honestly, I could make an argument to take Charles after the top three (Johnson, Peterson and MJD).
Anyone else and it's definitely worth discussing Charles over him. Thomas Jones? Age concerns and Shonn Greene getting a bigger role. The Dolphins and Panthers have time-share situations. Michael Turner is inconsistent. Cedric Benson, Ryan Grant and Rashard Mendenhall are a step behind.
You don't believe me?
In the first eight games, Charles never received more than six carries. In the last eight games, here's what he's done:
161 carries, 968 yards (six yards per carry), seven rushing touchdowns, 20 receptions, 158 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown.
That's easy to prorate to a full season, since it was a half season. But just to see what it looks like, it works out to:
1,936 yards rushing, 316 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns.
That would be second to only Chris Johnson in fantasy points for running backs.
Of course, you can't totally expect things to continue to go this well for Charles, but there are lots of reasons to like him to come close to this pace. He's consistent, having scored at least 10.9 fantasy points in all eight games and at least 18 fantasy points in six of the eight games. He's both explosive and powerful, meaning he can bust loose for a 75-yard run, but he doesn't have the danger of losing goal-line carries to a vulture like Rice does. I do realize the Chiefs faced some easy run defenses during this stretch, but he also had good games against tough run defenses as well (like the Bengals and Steelers). I'd trust him against anyone right now.
Finally, the Chiefs are getting better. They'll hopefully have a full season of Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers together. Matt Cassel seemed to get a bit more comfortable toward the end of the season (probably because he finally had a running game). The Chiefs will work on improving the offensive line and defense.
At this point, I seriously think I'd take him fifth after Johnson, Peterson, MJD and Rice. I need to have a head-to-head grudge match live chat with R.J., since he would take Andre Johnson. We could have users declare a winner and everything.
Other Reality Checks
• Someone else who should get a significant boost -- assuming Eric Mangini is still the head coach: Jerome Harrison. The coach showed incredible trust in the back during the last three games. Obviously, some of it had to do with the lack of a credible passing attack, but the fact remains that Harrison carried the ball more than 100 times (106, in fact) in the final three games of the season. He scored five total touchdowns and rushed for 561 yards. He can be a great pass-catching back if need be, too. For now, he looks like a really viable RB2 for next year.
• Guess who finished second in quarterback points? Matt Schaub. Yes, he was helped by some late benchings (Peyton Manning and Drew Brees), but he still finished second. Don't neglect to think of him as an elite quarterback next preseason.
• You know why I'd rather draft a quarterback than a wideout in the first two rounds, which goes against what most other fantasy analysts would suggest? Because Miles Austin, Sidney Rice and Steve Smith (Giants-type) all finished in the top 10 of receiver points. Go look at the WR3 range in how things finished and you'll find names like Robert Meachem, Mike Sims-Walker, Pierre Garcon, Mike Wallace, Mario Manningham and Austin Collie (read: guys who were undrafted in most 12-team-or-less leagues). Oh, and you'll find guys like Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings, Terrell Owens and Anquan Boldin in that group as well.
And you really want to pick a wideout in the second round over Matt Schaub? We should always hate unpredictability in fantasy sports -- which is why I hate kickers -- and receivers are pretty damn unpredictable in terms of how they'll work over the course of a full season. That's what happens when you rely on someone else to get you the ball.
In fact, I think there will be a run on quarterbacks early next year. The clear-cut QB1 guys are Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Schaub, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger and Donovan McNabb. If Brett Favre and Kurt Warner are still around (and they probably will be), they round it out with Eli Manning in 12-team leagues. After that you have the Joe Flacco, David Garrard, Jay Cutler, Carson Palmer and Kyle Orton camp. If you play in a 14-team league, do you wanna wait on quarterback or do you want to get the position taken care of early? Give me one of the elite. It was a difference of six to eight points per week this season.
• Next season's player who will take a huge leap? Michael Crabtree.
• Next season's player who will be a huge bust? Cedric Benson.
• Player no longer worthy of being a keeper consideration? LaDainian Tomlinson.
• A final note: Sunday was the perfect illustration of why the fantasy football championships should all be held in Week 16. Sure, you might have the occasional team benching guys in Week 16 like the Colts did this year, but, for the most part, this only happens in Week 17. You want to decides leagues with Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Kurt Warner and many others of the same ilk on the field, not holding a clipboard.