Charles managed to play only eight games over the last two seasons due to ongoing issues with his knees, and the Chiefs finally parted ways with him as a result. At his peak, the 30-year-old was one of the most dangerous and elusive backs in the NFL, topping 1,700 yards from scrimmage three times from 2010-13 while averaging 5.0 yards per carry or better in every season of his career until 2016. In need of help in their backfield, the Broncos signed him to a one-year deal loaded with incentives, but it seems unlikely that he'll be healthy enough to regain his earlier form. Even if Charles shows enough to win a spot on the 53-man roster, expect him to have his touches and workload carefully managed in a committee with C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker.
For the second time in five years, Charles had a blowout — the second torn ACL of his career. The Chiefs certainly missed his presence on offense for the final three months, but it didn't sink the team — Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West were capable fill-ins, and KC wound up making the playoffs. From an efficiency standpoint, Charles kept his play at an elite level last year. He went for better than five yards a carry for the eighth straight season, a remarkable achievement. His 8.4 YPR were just an eyelash under his career mark. And for a smaller back, he gets into the end zone with regularity — 38 scores in his last 35 games. It will be interesting to see if the Chiefs scale back Charles' workload a bit, now fully cognizant of what their two reserves can do. It would make theoretical sense for Andy Reid and Co. to steer Charles away from excessive goal-line work, perhaps— not that we have any tangible indication they're going to do that. Charles is also entering his age-30 season, the ominous part of an RB's career arc. Perhaps that's why the early returns in the NFFC have Charles kicked to the second tier of RB. Your view of Charles might come down to how you view a second-round fantasy pick and how confident your ability is in the running back's ability to bounce back from his injury.
While Charles recorded the fifth 1,000-yard rushing season of his career, last year was something of a disappointment thanks in large part to a number of nagging injuries. Foot and ankle issues resulted in just 46 combined yards through the first three weeks of the season, and while he went on a tear following the Chiefs' Week 6 bye, including an eight-game touchdown streak, by year's end knee, ankle and hamstring woes slowed him once again. When he's fully healthy, Charles remains one of the league's most dynamic backs, combining outstanding burst and elusiveness with excellent receiving skills and top-end speed few players can match, even after his seven seasons in the NFL. While he's not afraid to lower his pads to gain extra yards, at 5-11, 199, he's not exactly physical, and last season's various bumps and bruises caused the Chiefs to shy away from using him in more demanding roles, reducing his goal-line carries and cutting his targets by 30 from 2013. Charles' status at the top of the depth chart is unquestioned, but with Knile Davis having proven his worth as a backup, expect the Chiefs to keep a close eye on Charles' workload this season as they attempt to keep him in one piece.
Always a fantasy stud when healthy, Charles' value managed to take a dramatic leap forward last season thanks to new Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who handed Charles the consistent goal-line duty he's always been missing. While he's always been known for his pure speed and elite cutting ability, Charles had – perhaps for fear of brittleness – been largely sheltered from duty near the end zone before last year.
But in 2013, the Chiefs handed Charles the ball 15 times inside the five-yard line – matching his total in that category from the prior four seasons combined. He also saw 18 pass targets inside the red zone, which was more than double his total from any previous campaign. The result: 19 total touchdowns from a guy who had previously totaled 24 in five seasons. All that short-yardage usage may have contributed to Charles' career-low 5.0 YPC, but his fantasy owners certainly didn't mind. Indeed, they had to be quite happy with his newfound toughness – including 39 broken tackles, fourth-most in the NFL.
Owners in PPR leagues minded even less, as Charles spectacularly totaled 70 catches on a ridiculous 104 targets last year after never grabbing more than 45 passes in a season before.
Although Charles did suffer a concussion in last year's playoffs, that's sure to be long cleared up by the time this season kicks off, and Charles doesn't have a history of head injuries. Yes, concussions can develop into recurring issues, but that's a fear with every NFL player. That aside, Charles is fully healthy and now two quality seasons removed from the torn ACL that limited him to two games in 2011.
The Chiefs have a quality backup in Knile Davis, but that shouldn't have much of an effect on Charles. As long as he remains healthy, he'll remain Kansas City's featured back, meaning he'll see the vast majority of Alex Smith's handoffs and backfield passes. Another run at 2,000 total yards is in the cards – and with his newfound goal-line duties, Charles has a very good chance to be fantasy's most valuable back.
After missing nearly all 2011 with a torn ACL, Charles returned to display every bit of his trademark acceleration and razor-sharp cutting ability en route to an impressive 5.3 YPC (3rd) last year. He now boasts an incredible 5.8 YPC career average and has rushed for nearly 3,000 yards in his last two full seasons.
Charles' efficiency last year is even more impressive considering Kansas City featured the league's worst passing offense in both yards and touchdowns. Under new coach Andy Reid and with Alex Smith at quarterback the threat of the pass should take a big step forward. While Charles might not see the 285 carries he did last year (LeSean McCoy’s high under Reid was 273), he should see more receptions than last year's 35 in Reid's West Coast system.
Charles figures to remain one of the biggest yardage machines in the league, and in what looks to be a significantly improved offense, he could finally break through the double-digit touchdown barrier that's capped his upside in previous years. Last season, he had just 25 red-zone carries, only five inside the 10-yard line.
Charles tore his ACL in Week 2 last year, ending his season almost before it started. He’ll have nearly a full year to recover, but for a back who relies so heavily on cutting laterally and explosive speed, there’s some concern as to whether he’ll be the same player. Because the Chiefs don’t treat him like a workhorse and brought in Peyton Hillis during the offseason, he’ll need to maintain high levels of per-touch production in order to remain an elite fantasy back, something he had no problem doing two years ago as he finished with the second-best YPC mark in NFL history. Former head coach Todd Haley is gone, so it’s possible his successor Romeo Crennel gives Charles more work, especially considering he’s a likely better fit than Hillis for the team’s new zone-blocking scheme. At press time, reports of Charles’ recovery were positive. If he looks like he has his lateral quickness back in August, he should be drafted aggressively.
Despite receiving a modest 230 carries, which ranked 14th in the NFL, Charles finished second in the league with 1,467 rushing yards last season, thanks to a 6.378 YPC mark that was just .02 away from breaking Jim Brown’s all-time record. Charles was active as a receiver (48 catches, 468 yards), but it was maddening to see the team’s best player given more than 16 carries just three times over the season (with a high of 22 rushing attempts). Charles, who recorded an NFL-high 80-yard rush, is probably the league’s fastest running back, but he’s also much stronger than most speed backs, rarely going down at first contact. There are two main concerns regarding Charles, one being his lack of goal-line opportunities. His five goal-line carries last season tied for 40th in the league, though it’s worth noting he converted four of them for scores. The other worry is coach Todd Haley, who seemingly will never trust Charles as a lead back. Still, Thomas Jones is now 33 and has a whopping 2,525 career carries, and he averaged a paltry 2.8 YPC over the final nine games last season, so Haley may be left with no choice but to give Charles more rushing attempts. There’s an argument Charles is the best back in football, so only Haley can prevent him from threatening to be the No. 1 fantasy RB.
After becoming the starter last year, Charles totaled 1,126 yards with eight touchdowns over the final eight games, but Charles may not have sold himself as a feature back to his organization, as the Chiefs brought in Thomas Jones during the offseason. While the odds are clearly against Charles keeping up his second half pace (which would result in 2,252 total yards and 16 scores over a full season), realize that production came with a modest 161 carries, so it’s not like he needs big volume to be highly effective. Despite running behind the same offensive line that saw Larry Johnson get 2.9 YPC, Charles’ 5.9 YPC mark tied for the NFL lead. Charles turned a greater percentage of his carries into first downs (54/190) than any other back in football while also averaging an amazing 3.6 YPC after first contact — a number that easily led the NFL and is especially surprising given his size. The Chiefs remain a bad team though, and it’s never easy producing big stats as a RB playing for a weak offense, but Charles sure looks like a special talent who will also be heavily involved as a receiver. The newly acquired Jones will surely take away carries and is a major threat to steal them at the goal line, but he’s 32 years old, has averaged 308 carries the last five seasons and faded badly down the stretch last year. There will be safer picks than Charles, but none will have more upside at that stage of the draft.
When given the opportunity, Charles impressed last season, averaging 5.3 YPC while flashing skills as a receiver. Unfortunately, he failed when answering questions about his durability, as an ankle injury slowed him throughout the second half of the year. Larry Johnson’s future in Kansas City is uncertain, and there are no other viable backs on the roster, so Charles could be a factor in 2009. With Matt Cassel in at quarterback and the innovative Todd Haley taking over as head coach, the Chiefs offense also has potential, so Charles is a sneaky target.
Larry Johnson owners looking for a handcuff late in drafts must decide between Charles and second-year player Kolby Smith. Charles boasts terrific speed and shiftiness, while Smith is more of a between-the-tackles type. Smith’s experience gives him the leg up heading into training camp, but Charles represents the type of upside play that is usually more attractive in the late rounds.