Why I'm Not Drafting Charles - Part 3
Over the last two days I examined why the Chiefs offensive line will hurt his rushing statistics and passing statistics. Today I’ll compare the Chiefs 2013 schedule with their 2014 schedule, and look at the cumulative effect of the offensive line and schedule.
Looking at the Schedule
The games against non-division teams is another reason to be concerned about Charles. In 2013 the 11 games Charles played against non-division opponents (including the playoffs) included no great run blocking teams. None of those defenses ranked in the top eight in terms of rushing yards per game allowed. There were two games against teams ranked ninth to 16th, in which Charles averaged 4.1 yards per carry in those games. There were four games against defenses ranked 17th to 24th, where Charles averaged 5.2 yards per carry, and the other five were against teams in the bottom eight in which Charles also averaged 5.2 yards per carry. You would expect any running back regardless of quality to put up better rushing numbers against worse run defenses, and that was true for Charles in 2013.
In 2014 the schedule is much more daunting. During the middle parts of the schedule, the Chiefs face the 49ers, Jets and Cardinals. They were three of the top four teams in terms of fewest rushing yards allowed last year. They face the Seahawks who ranked seventh and Rams who ranked ninth, which adds up to half of their non-division games coming up against great run defenses. On top of that, only two of their 2014 opponents ranked in the bottom eight compared to five last year. A number of these teams are known not just for their run defense but also their pass rush which also doesn’t help.
Six of their games will be in the division as usual. Two of them are against the Broncos who now have T.J. Ward who had a Run Stop Percentage of 6.9 percent which was third best for all safeties who played in at least 50 percent of snaps. They also added DeMarcus Ware who ranked fifth in Run Stop Percentage for all edge rushers at 9.5 percent.
Another two games will again be against the Raiders. If you were in the fantasy playoff last year, you might remember Charles Week 15 performance against Oakland where he had 195 receiving yards on eight catches for four touchdowns. Of Charles fantasy points last year, 24.4 percent came in the two matchups against Oakland. Of the 11 starters Charles faced in Week 15, only four remain on the roster with only three likely to remain starters. I went through their front seven changes here, while the secondary should be much improved as well. It is very unlikely Charles will be able to find the same success against this defense.
On the bright side for Charles, he still gets two games against the Chargers. Last year Charles had 115 yards on 14 carries against San Diego, and then didn’t play in the other matchup. The Chargers defense remains mostly unchanged.
If Charles had the 2014 schedule in 2013, I would expect him to have 100 fewer rushing yards on the same number of carries just due to the stronger defenses. Of course teams will be somewhat different next year than last year. I expect the Cardinals run defense to not play as well due to different inside linebackers, but outside of that I expect defenses on the Chiefs schedule to play roughly as well as they did last year.
Fourth Quarter Touches
In 2013 the Chiefs were a playoff team that more often than not won their game or at least were close in the fourth quarter. On 64.7 percent of the Chiefs offensive snaps in the fourth quarter, they had the lead. Typically when teams have a lead in the fourth quarter, they are running the ball to run out the clock. This was true for Kansas City. While Charles lost some touches to backups in the fourth quarter when the Chiefs were winning, he still was the player to either carry the ball or be the target on a pass on 33.7 percent of the Chiefs offensive snaps.
When a team is losing in the fourth quarter, then they are passing to catch up. This is another league wide trend that the Chiefs followed. While it was less likely for the Chiefs to put a backup running back on the field, it was still less likely that Charles would be the one touching the ball. Jamaal Charles either ran with the ball or was the target of a pass on just 21.7 percent of the Chiefs offensive snaps when they were losing in the fourth quarter. There were very few snaps the Chiefs had tied in the fourth quarter, but typically when a team is tied they play more like they are losing than winning in the fourth quarter.
I don’t expect the Chiefs to be as good of a team in 2014 as they were in 2013. Outside of the offensive line losses, the Chiefs lost slot receiver Dexter McCluster. They had no free agent additions to the skill players, and their draft picks are unlikely to see much if any playing time. On defense they lost Tyson Jackson, Akeem Jordan and Quintin Demps, and added Vance Walker, Joe Mays, and drafted Dee Ford. All of this shouldn’t have a major impact positive or negative. However due to the offensive line problems already outlined as well as the schedule, I expect the Chiefs to spend more of their time losing in 2014 than they did in 2013.
In 2013, Jamaal Charles saw more combined carries and targets in the fourth quarter than any other quarter. If the Chiefs are losing more in 2014 than 2013, then he will see a lower percentage of the Chiefs touches in the fourth quarter. If the Chiefs end up as a below average team fighting for .500, then I would expect Charles to lose an average of one carry or target per game due to this.
Other Quick Thoughts
With the 96th overall pick in the draft in 2013, the Chiefs drafted Knile Davis. He didn’t see much playing time outside of sometime late in the season. He had an unimpressive 3.5 yards per carry. There was a comment made that the Chiefs want to lighten Charles’ workload slightly in 2014, but fewer targets when Alex Smith is under pressure as well as fewer fourth quarter touches when Kansas City is losing should be enough to accomplish that. Whenever there is a former high round pick as a backup you would expect them to get some playing time. Unless Charles gets hurt or Davis has an amazing camp, I don’t think Davis will be a major threat to carries.
It’s harder to quantify, but I do expect Charles touchdown numbers to decrease. A lower yards per carry for Charles, a lower yards per attempt for Alex Smith, more sacks taken by Smith and harder defenses faced will all add up to fewer red zone opportunities. Charles will still likely break some runs for longer touchdowns, but fewer red zone touches means fewer touchdowns.
Jamaal Charles is one of the best running backs in the league and I’m not questioning that in any of these three pieces. At the age of 27 he should be right around his peak, but due to a number of factors out of his control, I would not pick Charles with any of the first three picks in the draft. Due to his talent and how much the Chiefs use him, he is definitely still a first round pick in fantasy drafts. I would prefer to feel good about my first pick in a fantasy draft, and there are far too many red flags for Charles in 2014 for me to feel like I’m getting good value for Charles.