NFL Analysis: Chiefs Re-Signing Jamaal Charles

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I need a new post to drop the semi-nude picture of Tom Brady down off the front page, so I thought I'd chime in on the Jamaal Charles re-signing. The Chiefs inked (if you're a sportswriter you're supposed to say 'inked' ...or sometimes 'locked-up' when it's a re-signing) the RB to a 5-year deal with $13 million guaranteed.

Is Charles really a top back worth top money?

Yes, he is. (You're supposed to make readers wait to the end of the article for a wishy-washy non-answer, but I'll cut to the chase.) Charles' numbers are great, and the seem to be getting better each year. Currently in his 3rd year, Charles is averaging 5.8 YPC for his career and 6.0 YPC for 2010. (4.3 YPC is average for RBs.) How good is 5.8 YPC?  It's better than any 3-year span or any single year for LaDanian Tominson, Marshall Faulk, or even Erik Dickerson (not to be confused with the Bruce Dickinson, who could easily run for 5.8 YPC if he wanted.)

Are Charles' huge YPC numbers inflated by a handful of lucky long runs? Not really. Charles' career Success Rate (SR) is 45.1%, and in 2010 it's second in the league at 50.7%. He's succeeding behind an undistinguished KC offensive line. Running behind the same line in 2009, Larry Johnson's posted a 26.3% SR compared to Charles' 43.1%. This season, Thomas Jones had a 38.3% SR compared to Charles' 50.7%. And run SR is the stat most critical to a team's fortunes.

One possible reason for his high per-carry stats is that Charles is used relatively sparingly. He averages under 10 carries per game for his career, and 13 carries per game this season.

In his 43-game career (full career advanced stats), Charles posts a net 0.95 WPA and 44.0 EPA, which compares favorably to Adrian Peterson's 0.49 WPA and 22.9 EPA. Here is a career comparison (regular season only):

Stat Charles Peterson
G 43 58
WPA 0.95 0.49
EPA 44.0 22.9
WPA/G 0.02 0.01
EPA/P 0.08 0.02
SR(%) 45.1 41.3
Att 417 1149
Yds 2437 5613
YPC 5.8 4.9
RushTD 10 51
Rec 97 116
RecYds 887 1161
RecTD 3 2
Fum 5 19

Peterson is certainly the better fantasy value, leading in TDs and total yards per season, but Charles may be the RB with the better real-world value.