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Buyer Beware – Jamaal Charles

Barring injury, Jamaal Charles will be on course for another fine fantasy football season. Last year he rushed for just better than 1,500 yards and had 35 receptions for 236 yards and six total touchdowns. This year he will probably rush for another 1,400-plus yards and catch 40-50 passes out of the backfield and score another handful of touchdowns. Charles has great upside and is currently being held to his highest fantasy ranking to date. He is being drafted in the top-5 of the majority of mock drafts. So “where’s the beef?” you might ask.

My “beef” is that I am not sure I can trust Charles on a weekly basis. Let’s look at where he is being viewed in early mock drafts. Every mock draft is a little different. But generally speaking, the first three picks in most drafts have been Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster and Doug Martin, with somebody maybe veering from Martin periodically. After that there is some disparity of who to draft at No. 4. But from what I have seen, Charles has been going as the fourth, fifth or sixth pick of the draft. When picking at this position of the draft, you miss out on the elite upper class but you can secure a guy that has the potential to move up to that highest tier of fantasy notoriety. Now I agree Charles has a shot at moving up to the elite but I am not quite ready to base my fantasy team’s fortunes on him just yet.

I believe the Kansas City Chiefs addition of Alex Smith and head coach Andy Reid will affect Charles’ fantasy value more than Charles himself will, the biggest Wild Card being Reid. Everyone knows when Reid was in Philadelphia, he utilized his running backs to the fullest extent. From LeSean McCoy to Brian Westbrook to Duce Staley, they have all been utilized in the running game and very heavily in the passing game as well. We all assume he will employ the same tactic with Charles in 2013. But until I see a year under Reid’s belt, and that’s a mighty big belt, I think there are safer options while we get a better feel for how Charles will be utilized in this offense.

Charles has five years under him as a NFL running back. However, due to injury he only played two games in 2011. So we will only consider four years of statistical analysis for the purpose of this argument. Let’s start with the biggest fantasy statistic there is, touchdowns. The most rushing touchdowns Charles has had in four full injury-free seasons is seven. He has never had more than eight total touchdowns in a single season. He has 17 rushing touchdowns in his NFL career. To put it in perspective, Arian Foster had 15 rushing touchdowns last year alone. Adrian Peterson has only had less than 12 rushing touchdowns once in six years even though he has only played an entire 16-game schedule three times in his career

Last year, Charles had a combined 1,735 rushing/receiving yards. That’s a Pro Bowl-caliber year under any circumstance. But when broken down further in a fantasy perspective, those 1,735 yards don’t equate to fantasy supremacy as one might think. I am pulling fantasy scoring from two scoring systems of current leagues I am in. One is a points-per-reception league at My Fantasy League (MFL) and the other a standard non-PPR league at CBS Sportsline (CBS).

In 2012, MFL scoring has Charles with five games in single-digit scoring and six games of 11 fantasy points or less. CBS has him six games in single digits and eight games of 11 fantasy points or less. Most fantasy leagues utilize a 13-week regular season schedule and a three-game playoff. This means Charles surpassed over a half season worth of games of less than 11 points in a non-PPR league, and in the PPR league he was approaching almost a half season worth of games of 11 fantasy points or less. I don’t know about you, but nothing hurts more than your fantasy stud pulling a single-digit fantasy-scoring week. It happens. We all know that. Hopefully your other players step up that week to fill the void. But when it happens 6-8 times in a year, that can not be tolerated from the player you drafted as the foundation of your team.

Once again let’s put this in perspective. Using MFL PPR scoring, Cecil Shorts and Lance Moore had just as many double-digit scoring weeks as Charles, as they only fell below the single digit mark five times all year. Even running back Mikel Leshoure had fewer single-digit games than Charles did in 2012. And Leshoure isn’t even a starting running back anymore. Furthermore Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Ray Rice and Marshawn Lynch combined had a total of five games under 11 points in 2012. That’s one less than Charles had all by himself. We can even go back to 2010 where Charles once again broached half a fantasy season of six games with less than 11 points using CBS scoring methods.

Charles is capable of scoring 30-plus fantasy points in any given week. I know it’s fun to lay the smack down on the office weirdo that sits three cubicles over. You know this is the guy who likes to spout off about his latest waiver wire pickup because he doesn’t understand that being first on the waiver wire is a bad thing. You feel a certain amount of superiority by crushing him into submission led by Charles and his 36 points for the week. But then the next week you drop a game against a guy who thought drafting half a team of Arizona players is a good thing just because he is blinded by the fact he is a Cardinals fan. I know everyone knows of a guy who does this in one of your many fantasy leagues. And if you are only in one league, I highly doubt you are reading this article right now. You just can’t afford to let those types of games slip away on a weekly basis or you will be watching from the outside-in come playoff time.

I will not fault anybody who decides to draft Charles with the fourth pick of the draft. He has tremendous upside and may just live up to the hype of him being the next biggest fantasy stud under Reid’s supervision. But for me, if I have a chance to select a Marshawn Lynch or LeSean McCoy instead of Charles, I will do so without hesitation and allow the guy behind me to bear that risk.

In Charles’ last two full years of play he has been in the upper tier of running backs in total fantasy points. But when looked at further under the microscope, he may not be there when you need him most. So until Reid shows me something different from Charles, I am going to have a wait-and-see attitude unless he falls so far down the draft board that I have no choice but to draft him. Charles will hold a little more value in PPR leagues, but whether you are in PPR or a non-PPR league I would remind you once again of … “Buyer Beware.”

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