Spencer Ware over Charcandrick West as the Kansas City handcuff RB

The debate over which running back is the better one to back up Jamaal Charles has an easy answer.

| 3 months ago
(Bob Levey/Getty Images)

(Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Spencer Ware over Charcandrick West as the Kansas City handcuff RB


(Editor’s note: Every day, we’re offering our Crazy Fantasy Stat of the Day, something that catches our eye and helps us learn something for the 2016 fantasy season.)

Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles tore his ACL last year in the team’s fifth game, a loss that dropped the Chiefs to 1-4. It was seen in some circles as the death knell to a disappointing team.

Instead, the Chiefs turned things around. After one more loss to get to 1-5, the Chiefs won the last 10 games of the regular season and their first playoff game, going 10-6 and making it to the divisional round of the playoffs. The team got 848 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns from Charcandrick West and 408 and six from Spencer Ware as replacements. Charles is expected back for 2016, but the two backups are still on the roster, and there’s question about which is the better handcuff play for fantasy owners.

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It’s not hard at all to find numbers supporting West. After all, he bested Ware in carries, yards, targets and fantasy points. You have to look slightly harder to find rationale for Ware, but when you do, you realize that, by almost every measure, he was the better running back than West in 2015. That brings us to the Fantasy Stat of the Day: In 2015, Spencer Ware put up 0.70 fantasy points per opportunity; Charcandrick West offered only 0.33. Among all running backs with more than 70 carries, Ware’s number was the best in the league. And it goes on from there; Ware better numbers in yards per carry (5.6 to 5.0), yards after contact (3.8 to 2.1), missed tackles per attempt (0.22 to 0.12).

Per PFF Grades (which don’t measure fantasy contribution, but can factor into playing time), Ware was a strong positive, tied for 18th among all running backs despite playing in only nine games. West, meanwhile, struggled. He graded out 53rd out of 68 qualified running backs. The short version of this is that, strictly as a runner, West had no advantages over Ware other than the fact that he got the gig first. Ware was better per carry, he was better per opportunity, and he was far better at avoiding penalties. West will be the pass-catcher of the two should the need arise, but as far as running the ball is concerned, it was no real contest.

Obviously, Jamaal Charles is still the Kansas City running back you want in fantasy. He’s currently eighth in our staff rankings. But West and Ware are battling for the next Chief up. Currently, West is barely above Ware in our staff rankings (63rd to 65th). In early ADPs, the difference is even greater, with West 42nd at running back and Ware 58th. That’s the wrong approach, and fantasy owners who take Ware over West as the Charles handcuff will be rewarded should the starter go down again. Practice your mock drafts, and choose Ware.

Draft Guide 2016

| Fantasy Editor

Daniel Kelley is the fantasy editor for Pro Football Focus. He has previously appeared at SB Nation.

  • Ben

    In a PPR league, would you still recommend Ware over West?