Freedom. That’s what Jamaal Charles has now.
He’s unshackled and unhinged, or at least one of those things. He’ll run wildly into the Sunday wilderness, with child-like euphoria on every snap. Honestly, he may even mentally revert into being a tiny child, bouncing with exuberance because there’s a lollipop in the end zone. Everything is new for Charles, and a lot of large numbers are possible.
We already let our imaginations wander with Charles, noting that Andy Reid’s quick-strike passing style and Alex Smith’s comfort while throwing short passes should lead to a significant increase in the running back’s receptions and targets, and therefore also his fantasy production.
But indulge me with a little more gushing after Charles said some exciting words over the weekend. While talking to some local newspaper men, Kansas City’s new offense inevitably became the topic of conversation. Charles has a pretty favorable opinion on the matter:
“This offense might be the best thing that ever happened to me. I think this offense will get me open. They’re going to throw me the ball more. I think I’ll continue to stack Pro Bowls on Pro Bowls if I can stay healthy.
“I definitely know my role. I’ve got a lot of stuff to program in my mind right now. There’s a lot of stuff in the Andy Reid offense, the same stuff he did with Westbrook and McCoy, and I think I fit his scheme as well as they did. Definitely more studying and definitely more knowing the scheme of the defense, especially when I go out there and play another position like wide receiver. I go in there and try to read the defense. I feel like this year it will be more than I catch out of the backfield.”
So Charles could be split out wide? And he’s being used so often as a pass catcher during the offseason that he’s talking about playing another position? Swoon.
Adrian Peterson is the no doubt, no brainer first overall pick in any and every fantasy league. But after that, the decision isn’t as easy as it seems, a muddled mess that includes this new-look Charles.
Most (myself included) will favor Arian Foster at second overall, noting his explosiveness and dynamic ability as a pass catcher out of the backfield. He had 40 receptions this past season and his career high came in 2010 when he turned 66 grabs into 604 yards. His late-season plodding is a concern, albeit a mild one. There’s been a lot of justifiable caution expressed over Foster’s workload and his 351 carries in 2012, which came when he was on pace for over 400 for most of the season.
That high usage may have contributed to Foster’s nine games with less than 4.0 yards per carry, which sounds awful because it is awful. But it’s not that much worse than 2011, when he finished with six such games. Also, his worst stretch of the season came between weeks 13 and 17, when Foster recorded three games with less than 50 yards. That sucked, but mixed in there was also a 165-yard game, and a 96 yarder. Then during the playoffs he had 230 yards over two games, and throughout the year including the post-season he scored 20 times.
There’s an argument to be made for Foster’s decline, perhaps, but his bitter demise has been greatly exaggerated, and I have a hard time putting Charles ahead of him despite the shameless glee I have over the Chiefs’ RB and his role in a shiny new offense. But third overall is a fine spot for Charles.
If their current ADPs are any indication, the throwdown in the No. 3 spot will often be between Charles and Doug Martin, and while there’s never a wrong decision in any of these scenarios, there’s always a better decision. And here, I think it’s Charles.
I like Martin. I like him a lot, because it’s pretty easy to like a guy who finished with 1,926 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns in his rookie year. Looking specifically at the rushing yardage (1,454 yards), there’s a really nit-picky concern to be found in his inconsistency, and booming which was often followed by OK-ness.
Sure, his games with 135, 251, 138, 128, and 142 yards are really super awesome, and they gave Martin’s owners 79.4 fantasy points just on that yardage alone. But the 158.8 yard pace established in those games was followed by tumbles down to 50 rushing yards (Week 12), 56 yards (Week 13), 16 yards (Week 15), and 62 yards (Week 16). What that led to was Martin accumulating over half (54.3 percent) of his rushing yardage in those five booming games.
But while some consistency would be nice, that’s of a lesser concern with Martin, and my intention isn’t to sound like I’m relentlessly polishing a gold statue here. No, the real concern is far out of his control, and it’s named Josh Freeman.
Therein lies the true consistency concern, as Freeman had a dismal second half of 2012 which saw his completion percentage fall to 54.8, a steep dive from his 62.8 in 2011. Of his 17 interceptions, 12 of them were thrown in the second half of the season, including nine over the final three games.
That’s why in this game of hair slitting between Martin and Charles, I’ll lean towards the latter. Alex Smith can be a pretty boring guy, but Reid’s system is ideal for him to be successful while finding Charles for check downs, and while also finding his many other weapons (Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery, Jon Baldwin, Anthony Fasano, and Tony Moeaki). That stability and schematic fit will lead to more trust, and ideally more running room due to the apprehension defensive coordinators may have if they’re thinking about putting eight men in the box and keying on Charles.