With just a few quick cuts and a few bursts of speed Jamaal Charles carried many owners through the playoffs while simultaneously ending the seasons of others. Personally it was a moment of joy. After suffering as a Chiefs fan for years I saw my team romp the Raiders while Charles carried me on to the fantasy championship. It was truly a performance for the ages.
When Andy Reid arrived in Kansas City in 2013 Charles' fantasy stock began to rise. People saw LeSean McCoy and even Westbrook thrive under Reid's direction and they expected the same to happen in Kansas City. They may just not have expected the performance he ended up providing. In 2013 Charles provided fantasy owners with 295 points in ESPN standard leagues, which ranked him as the highest scoring running back of the year. Not too shabby for a guy that slid down some draft boards due to concerns about an injury that cropped up in the preseason.
Why I Love Charles for Fantasy Football in 2014
Even as I put aside my bias as a Chiefs fan, I have to say that there's still a lot to love about Jamaal Charles. He's clearly the lead back in Kansas City, a team that needs all of the offensive weapons it can get it's hands on. Over the past two year Charles has had more than 320 touches in each year while only missing one game (not due to an injury).
In 2014 the Chiefs receivers showed some signs of life, however they never proved to be a real threat. Luckily for fantasy owners Charles was able to step in. He led the team in receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns and targets. Don't forget that those numbers don't even include his rushing numbers.
Although there's a chance that Knile Davis sees some more time at running back to limit the wear and tear on Charles, the Chiefs are going to keep feeding Charles the Ball. And they're going to throw it his way as well. Alex Smith is a conservative Quarterback who won't hesitate to dump it off to his shifty back. It's worked too many times in the past to not keep doing it.
You could argue that there's no reason to fix what ain't broken. And Charles fantasy value sure isn't broken.
The Downside of Jamaal Charles in Fantasy Football
The Chiefs offensive line took some serious hits to start off the 2014 season. There's no doubt that Charles and the line will have to adjust this preseason to play to the teams strengths, however it's not usually as simple as just plugging in a few players to make things better. It'll take time, time that fantasy owners need to be aware of. That could mean a lower ramp up to the production you're expecting in 2014.
Andy Reid has also talked about reducing Charles' workload in 2014 due to the fact that he played more than 87% of the Chief's snaps in the first 12 games of 2013. That means that Knile Davis, and rookie De'Anthony Thomas, may steal some production away from Charles.
The optimist in me would like to say that reducing his workload could allow him to be fresher for bigger runs and breakaways in 2014, however that may just be the fan in me talking. Regardless of the offensive line issues and the chance of decreased carries I still expect Charles to be just fine.
Fantasy Football Production
Whether Jamaal Charles goes with the first or fifth pick in fantasy drafts he'll have big expectations to fill. The jury is still out on whether he'll be able to meet them, however Kansas City's offense plays to his talents. That means the opportunities for fantasy success will be there.
Although I don't usually love stats, I'll take the safe bet every day of the week. Look for Charles to finish as a top 5 fantasy running back in 2014.