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The most efficient running back in football history. Eight straight seasons with at least 5 yards per carry. A strong 109 total yards per game under the current regime, and 38 touchdowns in 35 games. How could it ever be too early to draft this guy?
— Vanessa Nieva (@vanessanievap) November 21, 2014
A 29-year-old back coming off of his second torn ACL. A late start to camp and no action in the preseason with a backup who ran for 5.6 YPC and scored six touchdowns in the final nine games of 2015. How could you consider this guy in the first two rounds?
Such is the dichotomy between the ceiling and floor of Jamaal Charles. One of the greatest running backs of all time as a value or too risky to consider in the first 15 picks?
I rank Charles 10th overall in both PPR and standard scoring, while Dave and Jamey have him closer to his ADP. Before deciding how early you’re willing to accept the risk associated with Charles, it’s important to recognize how much risk there really is.
Our friends over at Fantasy Labs wrote an in depth piece about the history of backs coming back from ACL injuries. While it’s far from definitive due to the sample size, it’s also quite depressing. Running backs performed at a significantly lower level than they did pre-surgery.
I do think it’s of note that the two backs who defied the odds (Adrian Peterson and Charles) were also the two most talented backs on the list. It’s also worth noting that the backs saw about a ten percent reduction in YPC. Take 10 percent off Charles’ NFL-best 5.5 YPC and he’s still one of the most efficient backs in the league.
So what should we expect from Charles if he plays a full season? I’d expect right around 210 carries and 45 receptions. For any other back that is nowhere near enough volume to suggest first-round upside. For Charles that should mean approximately 1,400 total yards and double-digit touchdowns. By no means do I think this is his upside. Coming off his last ACL surgery in 2012, Charles had 1,749 total yards on 320 touches.
Those 320 touches bring up a good point. Andy Reid has never really been a coach who likes to divvy up running back touches evenly. We should expect that Charles will see close to a full workload as soon as he’s deemed able to handle it.
Charles is one of the handful of backs who has the upside of No. 1 overall running back. Most of those backs are far less proven (but younger) than Charles. Not only has he proven himself as the most efficient back in the history of the game, he has also proven capable of returning to elite performance following an ACL surgery. That type of upside with that type of track record is worth a first-round pick or a pick at the start of the second round at the very least.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / 2016 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: How early is too early to draft Jamaal Charles?