By Cris Benson
I was recently reading another fantasy football blog that said you should not draft Kansas City Chiefs running-back Jamaal Charles. Now I don’t always agree with the fantasy football advice on this particular blog but I respect the bloggers opinion. On the other hand I was hoping to find something that was substantial in their analysis and all I found was someone practicing medicine without a license, a breakdown of last season’s Chiefs offensive line, and a lot of unsupported opinions.
Here is the problem with the bloggers case; they are knee deep in fantasy world and not in the reality of NFL football. Sometimes we have to view things within the perspective of reality rather than the view of them through the red tinted glasses of fantasy statistics.
First Jamaal Charles injured his left knee tearing his ACL during week two of the 2011 season. While fifteen years ago a torn ACL might be considered a career ending injury today a torn ACL can be treated and healed. Not healed a little, or some, or the myth that you’re never the same. You are physically healed and can do everything that you were able to do prior to the torn ACL.
In all honesty surgery, time, appropriate rehab, and rest can heal the most significant of sports injury and you need look no further than the sport of basketball.
When Baron Davis tore his ACL’s in college some thought the his dreams of playing in the NBA were all but over however Davis went on to have a great NBA career. Now you might stop and say wait didn’t Davis blowout his ACL again this past NBA season while playing for the New York Knicks ushering in that awful phrase Lin-Sanity. Well you’re correct but first consider these facts. Davis returned to basketball his sophomore year at UCLA and didn’t appear to show any signs of injury. His recovery was so apparent that the Hornets drafted him third overall in the 1999 NBA Draft and that torn ACL with stood a fifteen year NBA career.
Now I am no expert on torn ACL’s but Sports Illustrated writer Will Carroll is the closest to an expert to ask these types of questions. Will Carroll is the leader in reporting sports injury and was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about ACL injury and recovery.
The Informer: Will Jamaal Charles be more prone to a re-occurrence of ACL injury in the future or is that a myth?
Will Carroll SI.com: Myth. There’s no evidence that there’s a susceptibility increase. What you have to look back on is whether what he does increased his risks and I see no evidence of that.
The Informer:If NO will he be more prone to other injuries do to overcompensation? Such as hamstring, MCL injury, what I am asking is can the knee return to previous stability?
Will Carroll SI.com: The rehab process is pretty foolproof at this stage. We’ve had enough of these to realize that the stabilizing structures have a huge importance, so we tend not to make those mistakes any more. Where we do see some issues is that the lack of confidence in the knee can lead to gait changes, which can lead to some muscular issues.
However I am certain some of you are saying that basketball isn’t football and that injuries do reoccur when you are being hit by a 250lb linebacker. Well yes that is true however it’s just as likely that an injury would occur to another body part based on that idea.
Carroll points out that the “rehab process is full proof” and ACL injuries are just a much a mental roadblock as it is a physical one. The road to a full return requires physical activity so that the injured knee returns to the proper balance. Jamaal Charles is well past that stage and is ready to return to the form he had in 2010.
Now with the injury behind us will the Chiefs offensive-line be able to create gaps for Charles to run through? Well returning to that bloggers argument against drafting Jamal Charles the issue of running between the guards is one that is not relevant.
Why? Jamaal Charles played one full game last season and was clearly missed by the Chiefs. For the record; I never was a Charles fan until I realized how talented he was and how he was able to keep defenders off balance.
With Jamaal Charles return the Chiefs they have an explosive talented running-back that can identify gaps before they close and has the quick feet to burst through them and get into space.
Now compared to last year where the majority of the carries went too washed up running-back Thomas Jones (AVG 3.1 YAC) any O-line would look bad. The fact is that Jamaal Charles was a much better running-back that hid some of the O-lines faults.
Did the Chiefs O-line struggle with the running game last season? Yes but not all the offensive linemen.
The one serious weak spot was guard Barry Richardson who single handedly had nine penalties, gave up eight sacks, and was a revolving door for defensive tackles to pressure the quarterback. Not mention his run blocking was just a horrendous.
So how have the Chiefs improved on the offensive line? Yes.
For one Richardson is gone and replaced with former Houston Texan guard Eric Winston. Winston brings with him the zone blocking technique he used for running-back Arian Foster.
With the NFL Lockout came players who were out of sync and left guard Ryan Lilja admitted it took a while for him to adjust. Look for him to bounce back this season and return to form.
The intangibles are Jon Asamoah, and rookies Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson who will battle for a starting position in camp.
Center Casey Wiegmann is now retired which leaves 2011 second round draft pick Rodney Hudson to step in and fill the veteran cleats.
However with Winston at right guard and left-tackle Branden Albert at the anchor the Chiefs offensive line has more balance to run the ball very effectively between the guards and off the left tackle.
Chiefs new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll takes over the play calling and he is going with a run game that features zone blocking.
Daboll also has brought former Cleveland RB Peyton Hillis with him from his days with the Browns. However don’t just assume Hillis will take all the goal line carries away from Charles. Hillis is going to function as blocking full-back just as much as much as goal line back. Hillis presence changes nothing between the twenties as that is sure to be the place that will feature Jamaal Charles.
One of the worst pieces of fantasy football advice I ever was given was when judging between two running-backs pick the one with the better QB. Exchanging the word better with worse is much more appropriate for choosing a running-back. The blog I read kept throwing in ridiculous claims that Charles would see more eight man fronts as if it was going to be called every single down.
The bloggers reasoning for the eight man fronts was that the KC passing game was inept of making a deep pass specifically targeting KC wide-receiver Dwayne Bowe. Actually Bowe had his second best season in his five years as an NFL player except his TD receptions took a heavy drop.
Now you have to ask an honest question. How accurate is the fantasy football advice that is being given and is the writer simply going on a whim rather than actually knowing what he is writing about?
You see that is what bothers me about the bloggers contempt for Jamaal Charles but this blogger is not alone with this half baked thought. Many experts are saying pass on Charles simply because of the ACL injury alone not taking the time to make a better judgment.
You see sometimes in fantasy football we miss the value of play calling and schemes something that every Pop Warner coach is familiar with. Sure we can read every statistic and can be pessimistic about injuries but then we don’t see the real game of NFL football. Instead all we see is fantasy points and fantasy points are not real.
The Chiefs have the play the third easiest ranked defensive schedule against the run. Take my opinion for what it is worth but if you pass on Jamaal Charles you’re going to regret it.
Charles ranks at number 12 on The Fantasy Football Informers 2012 RB Cheat Sheet and is a steal since he’s being drafted as high as the third round.
Note: The cheat sheets are posted on the right side column.