Fantasy Football: Risks in Drafting Jamaal Charles as the No. 1 Running Back

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Fantasy Football: Risks in Drafting Jamaal Charles as the No. 1 Running Back
KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 09: Running back Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs for a first down against the Baltimore Ravens during their 2011 AFC wild card playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 9, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Kansas City Chiefs know something about running backs.

No, it has nothing to do with systems or coaching continuity. Just something about the air in KC that makes RBs beasts.

Marcus Allen, The Nigerian Nightmare Christian Okoye, Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson. These are some of the biggest names on the list. And now Jamaal Charles is making a case to be on the list as well, seemingly out of nowhere.

I've participated in a few mock drafts for the upcoming season, and one thing I've noticed is that people are drinking the Jamaal Charles Kool-Aid.

And why shouldn't they?

The "backup" running back in Kansas City piled up 1,467 yards and five TDs last season rushing. Surely if Thomas Jones didn't rack up 896 yards/six TDs of his own Charles would be a consensus number one pick right?

Well, here's the thing. Charles is only 24-years-old, with his best years ahead of him.

Jones is 33. The science of aging running backs in the NFL (there's a formula out there somewhere) says that Jones is past his prime and has to break down sooner or later, meaning Charles' value will skyrocket.

In 2010, Charles was most explosive in the space before the red zone. His average within the Chiefs' own 20 is a gaudy 8.9 YPC with a season long of 80 yards. Charles' average came down a bit between the 20s (6.23 YPC), but then plummeted to 4.1 YPC between the 19 and goal line, and then 3.3 YPC between the 10 and goal line.

This could be because defenses get the benefit of a shorter field to defend at that point, but Charles is clearly a home-run hitter when it comes to runs. Or it could just be that Charles needs the space to run.

He also prefers running on first down. His average on first down carries is 7.3 YPC vs. 5.58 on second down and 5.45 on third. (For the record, Chris Johnson averaged 2.72, 3.53 and 2.77 respectively on the first three downs last year).

Of Charles' five rushing TDs last year, all (with the exception of one) came within the opponent's 10-yard line. Jones was the same way, scoring five of his six TDs within the same space.

What does this mean? It means that Charles does all the heavy lifting and Jones gets the credit.

To be fair, Charles did have eight of his own TDs last year. And two of his three receiving TDs were within the opponent's 10 (and two of the three TDs on the year were against the Titans). But with the Chiefs relying on him more in space than the opponent's red zone, his opportunities to score won't likely be as readily available.

The Chiefs are a run-heavy team, rushing on 54 percent of offensive snaps in 2010. The chances are there for Charles, but unless Jones' body decides to break down this year, then Charles will have stats similar to last year.

No matter how hard you complain, Todd Haley isn't likely to change something that's working just for the sake of fantasy. The Chiefs made the playoffs last year on the backs of the two-pronged RB attack.

Having said all that, is Jamaal Charles the No. 1 RB on the board? Sadly, no.

Despite what Arian Foster did last year (and he was on my fantasy team last year as well), I have to give that nod to Adrian Peterson. Foster at two, followed by Ray Rice at three and then Jamaal Charles at four. These three get the nod over Charles primarily due to TDs.

1,467 yards and five TDs rushing is certainly nothing to scoff at. Add in 468 yards and three TDs receiving, and you've got a back worth 1,935 yards and eight TDs in 2010. He's got the speed, moves and pedigree of a No. 1 RB.

I just don't see the TD total bumping up with Jones in the house, which is really the biggest thing holding Charles back.

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