Why I'm Not Drafting Charles - Part 2
Yesterday I examined the Chiefs new offensive line and how it will impact him in the run game. Today I’ll continue explaining why I would not draft Charles with the first few picks in a fantasy draft because he will receive fewer targets.
2013 Decline In Targets
A big reason for Charles huge fantasy season was his receiving. He was targeted 95 times which was nine more times than any other running back. As the season went on, his targets started to decline. He saw eight or more targets in four of his first six games, and at least six targets in all six games. Over the next ten games he saw eight targets just once, and had five or fewer targets half the time.
Chances are the 2014 Chiefs offense will more closely resemble the 2013 second half of the season offense rather than the 2013 first half of the season. Part of the reason for the decline is he dropped a lot of passes. Over the first six games of the season, he dropped seven passes compared to 33 catches for a very high 17.5 percent drop rate. He ended up tying the league lead for ten dropped passes. No matter how good you are, if you drop too many passes, that will impact how often you’re targeted.
Offensive Line’s Impact
Not only will the changes to the offensive line effect Charles ability to run the ball, but it will also impact his production catching passes. Yesterday I went into detail on who played on the line last year and who will be this year. In 2013 Branden Albert was the fifth best offensive tackle in Pass Blocking Efficiency. Of the 79 qualifying guards, Jon Asamoah had the ninth best Pass Blocking Efficiency at 97.4 and Geoff Schwartz was 12th best at 97.3. Thanks to their good play, Alex Smith was under pressure on just 34.1% of his dropbacks. Now all three of those offensive linemen are on other teams.
As I mentioned here, the changes to the offensive line will lead to significantly more plays where Smith is under pressure. I projected it would lead to 46 additional times that Smith would be under pressure. One important factor I didn’t take into account is time to throw. Smith averaged a time to throw of 2.87 which was eighth highest among starting quarterbacks last year. Thanks to the high time to throw, he is more susceptible to pressure than the average quarterback.
The increased pressure will lead to more times where Alex Smith gets sacked, throws the ball away or chooses to run with the ball, which ultimately decreases how often Charles is the target of a pass.
More specifically, when Alex Smith was not under pressure, he would throw to Charles 18.3 percent of his drop backs. When under pressure that decreased to 8.0 percent. If you look at just Week 7 on when Charles started to see fewer targets, the decrease seems even more dramatic. When Smith was not under pressure from Week 7 on, Charles was the target of 16.3 percent of his drop backs. When Smith was under pressure, Charles was only the target on 4.5 percent of Smith’s drop backs.
Comparing to the Other Top Picks
Some of the other running backs that might be considered in the first few picks includes Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy and Adrian Peterson. Each of those backs have all five of their starting linemen returning to the team. If anything there is potential for some of their lines to get better, as the Bears added Brian De La Puente to be a backup linemen who should be better than some of their starters, while the Vikings added guard David Yankey in the draft who could take over at left guard.
We can expect all three players to have similar performances to last year, and they could perform even better next year. There is reason to expect more goal line opportunities for Forte due to the departure of Michael Bush. In Philadelphia if the Eagles pick up the pace, we could see an even better year from McCoy. Through 13 weeks, Peterson was the second best fantasy back in standard weeks. They shouldn’t see a large decrease in yards per attempt due to their line, and shouldn’t see a major change in targets due to their quarterbacks being under pressure more frequently.
If the Chiefs run a similar number of pass plays in 2014 as they did in 2013, I would expect Charles to be closer to 70 targets than the 95 he had last year. This would put him at around 52 catches, so around the same amount as LeSean McCoy and not as good as Matt Forte. There are more factors that I will get into tomorrow, but just looking at his 2013 decline in targets as well as his targets under pressure, I would expect a large decline in his targets, and therefore his catches, yards and touchdowns.