After a phenomenal 2010 season saw Jamaal Charles reach his first Pro Bowl, the Kansas City Chiefs running back appeared poised for big things in 2011. Unfortunately, his season was derailed after just 12 carries when he suffered a torn ACL in Week 2.
Now Charles is set to make his return, and while running backs coming off of knee surgery are never a sure thing, the 25-year-old Texas product could be a steal in your fantasy draft this season.
Here are five reasons you should invest a pick in Charles this year.
If you're going to have a season-ending injury, do it early. That's what happened to Charles last season, and as a result, he has had ample time to recover from the torn ACL that sidelined him for the year.
The Chiefs cleared Charles to open training camp and he's practicing at a full participation level right now. That means any rust he has should be knocked off in the preseason and he could be fully ready to go when the season opens.
Peyton Hillis joined the Chiefs in the offseason and the bruising back is already impressed with his backfield mate. In fact, Hillis told Sports Illustrated that he believes Charles is one of the NFL's best backs.
That's a big-time endorsement considering Hillis will be battling with Charles for carries this season. It's obvious that Charles has regained at least some of the explosiveness he had before his injury.
Even if Charles isn't all the way back to being the guy he was in 2010, he is certainly worth the risk because the potential reward is so high.
In 2010 Charles racked up 1,467 yards on just 230 carries, good enough for a ridiculous average of 6.4 yards per carry. He also hauled in 45 passes for 468 yards (10.4 yards per catch), and totaled eight touchdowns.
Simply put, 2010 was an incredible season for Charles and if he can come anywhere close to duplicating those numbers, he'll be an absolute fantasy stud. Even if he falls short, the potential for a big year still exists and it's too big to pass up.
Matt Cassel's three years in Kansas City have been rocky. The quarterback has played in 39 games and has completed 57.2 percent of his passes for 7,753 yards, with 53 touchdowns and 32 interceptions. His quarterback rating over those three seasons is a pedestrian 80.0.
With top receiver Dwayne Bowe holding out of training camp after being slapped with the franchise tag, Cassel's receiving corps is deprived of its top playmaker.
General manager Scott Pioli clearly knew he would have to rely on his rushing attack, because he brought in Peyton Hillis to help share the load with Charles. The two backs will surely be the focal point of Kansas City's offensive attack and should rack up a ton of carries, even if Bowe rejoins the team for the regular season.
Charles missed all but two games in 2011, which means he might be ignored by some players when it's time to draft a new team. But the simple fact is, he's a special back and the time off to recover should have a dramatic effect on him.
The overall skill set Charles possesses makes him an almost perfect fantasy back, and while taking him early in a draft presents a risk, he is certainly capable of a big, bounce-back season.
He is just too good to ignore or write off because he's coming back from knee surgery.