Fantasy Football: Why Jamaal Charles Has Become a Must-Start Running Back

Justin OnslowContributor IISeptember 24, 2012

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 19: Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs rushes against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on December 19, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Chiefs beat the Rams 27-13.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

I won’t criticize you, and I won’t make you feel badly about leaving Jamaal Charles on your bench for his ridiculous Week 3 performance. You made a decision, and it probably hurt a lot.

I made that decision, too.

I let Charles’s injury history and slow start to the season affect my reasoning, and I gave Trent Richardson the starting nod over Charles in one of my leagues this week. Needless to say, I lost that matchup, and my week has gotten off to a very depressing start.

There’s a lesson to be learned from all of this, though: don’t bench a feature back, especially if he has the potential to make big plays.

Charles suffered a torn ACL in Week 2 of the 2011 season—a season in which he was a consensus first-round pick in almost all fantasy drafts.

But unlike Adrian Peterson, Charles had a full year to recover from his knee injury, and he’s rebounded well. So well, in fact, that he’s become a must-start running back in all fantasy formats.

Charles had 288 yards from scrimmage on 39 touches in the Chiefs’ Week 3 win over the Saints, and was the biggest reason the Chiefs came back to win that game in overtime. Charles is back to full strength, and there’s no reason to worry about a relapse.

“I didn’t trust myself (until Sunday). It really hit me when I started getting the runs. I started trusting myself,” Charles said, via the Kansas City Star.

He trusts himself, and you should trust him too.

The ability to run with confidence is paramount at any level of the game. Charles has found his confidence, and isn’t afraid to make quick cuts anymore. For Charles, the game is slowing down.

You’ve been right to be cautious about starting Charles this season. He tweaked his knee in Week 2, and prior to the Saints game, he really didn’t do much to help your team. It was starting to look like Charles lost his explosiveness and dependability. 

If you’re still cautious, consider this: Charles joined Jim Brown last weekend as the only other player in NFL history to rush for more than 225 yards and add 50 or more yards receiving in the same game. Charles also has two career games with more than 230 yards rushing. Only Brown has more such games (3).

Charles isn’t going to rush for 200 yards every game. The Chiefs should be more cautious with him the rest of the season. He’s never been the type of back that should shoulder a 33-carry workload. But after his Week 3 performance, you should expect Charles to see a healthy workload every week. He’s healthy again, and explosive as ever.

Keep Charles in your lineup from here on out. He has earned his must-start status. Believe the hype, and sell high if you’re going to sell. You can’t afford to leave Charles’s points on your bench again.

Here’s a look at Kansas City’s schedule for the next five weeks:

  • Week 4: Home vs. San Diego
  • Week 5: Home vs. Baltimore
  • Week 6: At Tampa Bay
  • Week 7: Bye
  • Week 8: Home vs. Oakland


The only worrisome game in that stretch is the Baltimore game, but I would still start him against the Ravens, too. Charles doesn’t have to churn out tough yardage to put up points for your fantasy team. He is a multi-dimensional running back, who is just as effective catching passes out of the backfield.

Charles was once considered a “poor man’s Chris Johnson.” Let’s not insult Charles like that. He’s better than Chris Johnson at this point, and he’ll certainly finish the season with better numbers.

Don’t leave those numbers on your bench. Take notice, fantasy owners. Jamaal Charles is a must-start player.