I just started doing some writing for a new fantasy football website. I wanted to do an article on the Thomas Jones/Jamaal Charles situation. It really turned into more about just Jamaal Charles, but wanted to post it here to see what everyone thinks. I know most of you won't like the last line, but keep in mind I'm writing for people that probably know little about the Chiefs other than they always lose.
Oh how the days of the Running Back have changed. It wasn't but three years ago when perennial fantasy football league champions had a prescription for one thing in their draft—grab their running backs in the first two rounds. Since then, the average NFL team's running back depth chart has become clogged with confusion as week 1 Fantasy No Names (see Arian Foster, Justin Forsett, and the entire array of Redskins RBs last year) leap frog can't miss backs on draft day. This, in combination with the sudden abundance of PPR leagues, has destroyed the philosophy of grabbing your RBs in the first two rounds to assure fantasy success.
One interesting situation pins Jamaal Charles, last year's fantasy savior for many teams in the playoffs, in a fantasy point battle with the Chiefs' newly acquired Thomas Jones, who ran for 1402 yards and 14 TDs in 2009, both career highs. There's no question that fantasy owners plan on Charles being the main guy. In 12 team leagues, he's currently being drafted late 2nd to early 3rd round while his counterpart is going in the early 8th round. The Chiefs' running back by committee approach has certainly made fantasy owners out there weary about Charles, because he's simply being drafted too late!
Too late you say? Charles is like that unpopular, yet hot girl that you knew in high school—only you never talked to her because nobody else did. Well, look what she's doing now—she's hotter than all the “popular” girls, has two less kids, and makes more as a Doctor than all of them combined. You passed her up because you didn't want to do something none of the other kids were doing. Well now here's your chance to redeem yourself: don't be afraid to grab Charles in the late 1st or early 2nd round.
Charles accounted for 43% of the Chiefs carries in 2009, yet he still managed to finish 11th in the league in rushing yards. There is no question that everyone on the Chiefs, most importantly Todd Haley, saw the raw talent in Charles. Going forward, he will be the centerpiece of the Chiefs' offense. In the 8 games that Charles started he had 5 runs of 40+ yards, only two less than a man by the name of Chris Johnson had all year. And nobody was more effective than Charles on a per touch basis, to the tune of 5.9 YPC.
What can we expect this year? Count on him getting 60% of the carries and a ton of work in the passing game, with Thomas Jones being the blessing that keeps him fresh and healthy well into fantasy playoffs. Sure, Jones will steal the occasional goal line touchdown, but you can count on Charles to blow past defenders to punch another one in. Owners will tell you to look at the schedule he played at the end of the season. Agree with them, and take him anyways. At the very least, you can count on him for 1300+ yards on the ground, another 450+ yards through the air on 50+ receptions (can you say PPR), combined with 10 all-purpose TDs—and that's being conservative What do you get out of all that? A poor man's Ray Rice, going almost 2 rounds later (which by the way, if you can manage to snag both of these guys, don't hesitate). Can you say value? Count on Charles being a top 5 fantasy RB by year's end.
As far as Thomas Jones is concerned, he'll be a sneaky flex play who's limited to early and non-passing down duty with goal line work. But don't expect a lot of consistency from him, as the Chiefs will once again figure to be down early and passing often.