Fantasy football impact: Is there anything behind Jamaal Charles in Kansas City?

Jed Jacobsohn

We all know the Chiefs' star running back is a fantasy stud, but what about the rest of the team? We break down the fantasy implications.

The story of the 2013 -- and, frankly, probably 2014 -- Kansas City Chiefs begins and largely ends with one guy: Jamaal Charles. No player meant more to his team, or to his fantasy owners, than Charles last season.

Lest you think that's just words, as people who write this sort of thing are wont to do, I actually checked these numbers. Considering skill players only -- no kickers, no defenses -- Charles scored a higher percentage of his team's fantasy points than any other player in 2013. Check it:

Each team's highest-scoring fantasy player in 2013, given as a percentage of the fantasy points accrued by the team's primary fantasy skill-position players, because this is the longest title for a chart ever, and while you're reading this, could I interest you in something I wrote about baseball closers yesterday? And also, thank you for your time.
Player Position Team Percentage
Jamaal Charles RB KC 34.67
Andrew Luck QB IND 34.66
Josh Gordon WR CLE 34.37
Drew Brees QB NO 33.98
Cam Newton QB CAR 32.60
Russell Wilson QB SEA 30.84
Colin Kaepernick QB SF 30.78
Geno Smith QB NYJ 30.65
Matt Ryan QB ATL 29.80
Tom Brady QB NE 29.39
Peyton Manning QB DEN 29.27
Ryan Tannehill QB MIA 28.70
Andy Dalton QB CIN 28.50
Philip Rivers QB SD 28.25
Joe Flacco QB BAL 28.24
Ben Roethlisberger QB PIT 27.71
Matt Stafford QB DET 27.61
Vincent Jackson WR TB 27.56
Tony Romo QB DAL 27.16
Robert Griffin III QB WAS 26.81
LeSean McCoy RB PHI 26.38
Fred Jackson RB BUF 26.32
Chad Henne QB JAC 26.12
Adrian Peterson RB MIN 25.87
Carson Palmer QB ARI 25.74
Eli Manning QB NYG 25.63
Eddie Lacy RB GB 23.80
Zac Stacy RB STL 23.08
Matt Forte RB CHI 22.65
Chris Johnson WR TEN 22.23
Andre Johnson WR HOU 22.09
Terrelle Pryor QB OAK 18.59

(Note: For these purposes, I really considered only regularly used fantasy players. Garrett Celek's three fantasy points, for example, probably would have changed Kaepernick's percentage a bit, but that's ... pretty irrelevant, yeah?)

If you count it up, you'll see 21 quarterbacks, seven running backs and four wide receivers. Other than Charles and who-the-heck-knows-about-his-2014 Josh Gordon, no non-quarterback appears on that list until the 18th spot, and the second running back doesn't pop up until 21st.

Want to look at it a different way? Here:

Each team's leader in yards from scrimmage as a percentage of team's total yards. This chart title is a bit shorter. Wheeeeee.
Player Position Team Yards Percentage
Jamaal Charles RB KC 1,980 35.25
Matt Forte RB CHI 1,933 30.79
LeSean McCoy RB PHI 2,146 30.78
Josh Gordon WR CLE 1,734 30,13
Marshawn Lynch RB SEA 1,573 27.62
Antonio Brown WR PIT 1,499 26.35
DeMarco Murray RB DAL 1,471 25.67
Vincent Jackson WR TB 1,224 25.54
Chris Johnson RB TEN 1,422 25.37
Adrian Peterson RB MIN 1,437 25.10
Andre Johnson WR HOU 1,407 23.74
A.J. Green WR CIN 1,426 23.48
Reggie Bush RB DET 1,512 23.47
Frank Gore RB SF 1,269 23.45
Fred Jackson RB BUF 1,277 22.48
Ryan Mathews RB SD 1,444 22.41
Maurice Jones-Drew RB JAC 1,117 22.29
Pierre Garcon WR WAS 1,365 21.94
Zac Stacy RB STL 1,114 21.79
DeAngelo Williams RB CAR 1,176 21.76
Torrey Smith WR BAL 1,128 21.52
Eddie Lacy RB GB 1,435 21.50
Knowshon Moreno RB DEN 1,586 21.30
Victor Cruz WR NYG 998 19.17
T.Y. Hilton WR IND 1,089 19.12
Brian Hartline WR MIA 1,016 18.79
Harry Douglas WR ATL 1,067 18.43
Jimmy Graham TE NO 1,215 18.31
Rashad Jennings RB OAK 1,025 18.21
Michael Floyd WR ARI 1,041 17.85
Bilal Powell RB NYJ 969 17.85
Julian Edelman WR NE 1,067 16.65

I mean, I know this isn't news, but the extent to which the Chiefs relied on Charles a year ago was insane. Not Adrian-Peterson-in-2012 insane, sure, but an incredibly high level.

Looking to 2014, the Chiefs are likely to continue to rely on Charles as long as his legs will let them; the only offensive skill players the Chiefs added in the offseason were quarterback Aaron Murray, who is dealing with an ACL injury, and running back De'Anthony Thomas, who might be a supplemental weapon at best for now; he's a bit away from primary usage.

With that in mind, barring any changes between now and the start of the season, the Chiefs will largely be running out the same people they did last season. Here's a look at what that means for fantasy.


Murray, the Chiefs' fifth-round pick, was a really interesting pick as a quarterback; without his injury he likely would have been taken higher, so he's a value play and a potential down-the-road starter if the team moves on from Alex Smith. But the job is still Smith's for now, and that won't change for Murray, Chase Daniel or Tyler Bray in 2014.

Smith was the No. 15 fantasy quarterback in 2013, and he was perhaps the least consistent at the position. He put up games of 4, 4, 7 and 8 fantasy points at various points of the season, but also had 21-22 points six times, and hit 30 in Week 15. When he was on, he was as productive as any quarterback in fantasy, but he was not-on too often for comfort.

Smith set career highs in completions (308), attempts (508), passing yards (3,313), rushing yards (431) and touchdown passes (23) in 2013, doing at least a little bit to live up to that first overall pedigree he had a decade ago. Still, he's hardly a reliable starter in any but the deeper leagues. I ranked him as my 13th quarterback (96th overall) back in February, and that seems about right; if anything it might have been generous. Smith can lead the Chiefs to the playoffs, but he probably won't do the same for any fantasy teams.

Running back

This is the Jamaal Charles section. Knile Davis is still on the roster (though his recovery from injury will be a question mark), and Thomas is now a Chief, but Charles is so obviously the team's best player, and with Andy Reid at coach, we all know there's every chance the team continues to ride Charles.

Lest you think Charles might have been pushed too hard in 2013, he had 329 touches on the season. In 2012, he had 320. In 2010, he had 275. If you want to argue that Charles turns 28 in December, that his career-long accumulation of touches will wear him down, I'll listen. If you want to argue, though, that the team is riding him too hard on an individual-season basis, the numbers don't really back that up.

I ranked Charles as my No. 1 overall fantasy player for 2014. You could pretty easily put him, Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy into a hat and pull them out in any order and I wouldn't argue, though; what's clear is that they are alone in their highest tier, and everyone else is looking up at them.

Wide receiver

Five teams in 2013 featured zero receivers with 100 or more fantasy points: the Bills, Chiefs, Jaguars, Jets and Panthers. Somehow, two of those teams -- Buffalo and Carolina -- let the guys who did lead them in receiver fantasy points leave.

The Chiefs kept Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery, but they lost Dexter McCluster as a free agent to Tennessee. While McCluster has never been a fantasy star, he's a versatile offensive player who did put up 70 fantasy points last year.

That leaves Kansas City with the aforementioned Bowe and Avery to be the team's primary pass-catchers (after Charles, of course). After back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2010 and 2011 (including 15 touchdowns in 2010), Bowe was seen as a top-level receiver. He struggled in 2012, getting to only 801 yards and three scores before being shut down in Week 14. Bowe was seen as a popular bounce-back candidate last season, but he fell further, getting only 673 yards and only reaching double-digit fantasy points five times, with more than 11 points only once. He didn't have more than 70 yards in a game all season. It was "good" for 47th among wide receivers.

Avery, meanwhile, had a huge game in Week 3 last year, with 141 yards on seven receptions. He then went the rest of the year with only one game of more than three receptions, proving his huge Week 3 was a fluke. Avery, who has been with four franchises in his five seasons, is who he is at this point: He's a fine No. 3 receiver (who is cast as a No. 2 in Kansas City) who really shouldn't be seen as a reliable piece in fantasy.

Predraft, I ranked Bowe as the 42nd fantasy wide receiver, 117 overall. He'll fall a little -- though I haven't redone my rankings yet, Sammy Watkins at least will slot above him -- but that's basically his home. I didn't even rank Avery. He can be a bye-week fill-in, but he's not much beyond that.

Tight end

The Chiefs' primary tight end is Sean McGrath. Now you know all the important info about Sean McGrath. Dude doesn't even have a photo on his player page on ESPN or on his Wikipedia page. I'm only like 87 percent sure he actually exists.

Update: As was pointed out to me in the comments, McGrath is only the team's primary tight end among those who actually played in 2013. Of course, Travis Kelce, the team's third-round pick in 2013, is there (he missed 2013 with a microfracture in his knee) and I completely forgot him. Kelce is one of those Gronkowski-shaped tight ends (of course, that means he's also Zach Sudfeld-shaped), and the team appears likely to give him every opportunity to succeed. If I'm taking a Kansas City tight end, it probably is Kelce, but as far as ranking him, he's in the mid-to-high teens among tight ends at best, until we see some production out of him.

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