The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Truth: Week Five

Jacob Feldman


One of the things we as human beings tend to do an awful lot of in our lives is react to the things we see around us. Often times this is a good thing. For example, if a car just so happens to be driving down the same sidewalk you are walking on, you better get out of the way! That’s definitely a good reaction.

There is another side of the coin, though – that is the gross overreaction which is becoming more and more common into today’s world, thanks in part to social media. This isn’t just in life but also in the world of fantasy football. It isn’t uncommon for the smallest of things are blown way out of proportion. Other times what should be a minor blip on the radar gets way more attention than it deserves. There are also times when we ignore all of the warning signs and try to stay the course, not realizing we are heading for a cliff. Don’t worry though, because I’m here to help with these very things.

Each week I will examine a player or sometimes multiple players to see if their value is on par with what people are talking about. Often times this will be a player who “breaks out” the previous week and might be getting a lot of attention in trade talks or on the waiver wire. Other times it might be a player who received a lot of hype during the off-season who isn’t living up to expectations. Regardless of what it is, I’ll be doing my best to steer you in the right direction and get you a step ahead of your league mates.

Keep in mind that no one is perfect. After all, I told you to ignore Justin Forsett after opening weekend last year. Hey, we all make mistakes, but I like to think I’ve had a pretty good track record over the years of doing this. Two years ago, I was one of the first to lay out why you needed to trade Trent Richardson for whatever you could get, much like the Browns had done a week or two before. At the time I was blasted by readers, but if you listened you sold before his value crashed. I was also dead on with Larry Donnell fading down the stretch, Allen Hurns being good enough to stay ahead of Marqise Lee on the depth chart, Antone Smith being little more than a rarely used homerun hitter, and countless other takes from the last few years. Moral of the story, I miss from time-to-time like everyone else, but I feel I get it right much more often. When I’m wrong, I’ll own that mistake.

This week I’m going to take a slightly different approach to my weekly article. Anytime a star running back goes down with an injury, like Jamaal Charles did last weekend, the question is always about what will happen next. Charles leaves a huge hole not only for fantasy rosters but also for the Chiefs. The question is if either Charcandrick West or Knile Davis will be able to step up and fill the void. No one knows for certain, but I figured a little deeper look might be in order.

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Role prior to Charles’ injury

During the off-season and at the start of this season, we felt the depth chart in Kansas City was pretty clear at the running back position. Charles was the workhorse and Davis would be mixed in from time to time as a change of pace back. That was true through the first three weeks of the season, but when week four rolled around, that changed. Davis saw ten offensive touches over the first two weeks of the season. Since then, including after the Charles injury in week five, he’s only seen a total of two touches. West is the opposite with zero touches the first few weeks and fourteen over the last two weeks, including six in week four when Charles was healthy.

West was very clearly the preferred backup for Charles over the last few weeks, which is definitely a plus for him moving forward. He is going to get the first opportunity to take the lead role, and if he is successful, he could make Davis an afterthought.

Advantage: West by a significant amount

Athletic ability and size

We all know about Davis’ combine and the fact he is a bit of an athletic freak. At 5’10” and about 225 pounds, he has ideal size for the position. When you toss in a 4.37 second time in the 40-yard dash, you definitely get a great size/speed athlete with a phenomenal speed score. The issue for Davis is he’s primarily a straight ahead runner. He lacks some of the wiggle a lot of the great runners possess. He makes up for some of the lack of wiggle with good power to move the pile.

West’s athletic profile is a bit more of an unknown for most people, probably because he wasn’t a combine participant. From a size perspective, he is a slightly undersized, but not by much. At 5’10” and 205 pounds, he is actually a little bit bigger than Charles. While it might limit him slightly in short yardage situations, it isn’t going to make Andy Reid limit his touches. Athletically, West has solid straight line speed with nice explosive ability for his first step.

Advantage: Davis by a slim margin

Experience in the past

This is Davis’ third year in the NFL, all of them with the Chiefs. Over that time, he has been used primarily as a backup. He has 215 carries in his career with an average yards per carry of 3.4. There have been five regular season games over the last two plus years where he was listed as the starter and put together 15 or more carries. He’s managed to score in all but one of those games, even scoring multiple touchdowns in two of them. His average yards per carry in those five games is 3.96, which is better than his career average – this means he seems able to wear down defenses with his size and repeated carries to get stronger as the game goes on. While that still isn’t a great number, it is fairly close to what NFL teams hope for out of their running game.

On the other hand, West has been seeing his first live game action this year. Yes, he was on the Chiefs’ practice squad last season and did see some time in the preseason last year, but that is very different from real NFL games. In college, West was a part time starter, in part due to him switching positions from cornerback to running back. In that part time role he excelled, but there is a huge difference between rushing at Abilene Christian and rushing in the NFL.

Advantage: Davis by a solid margin

Ability to fill various roles

One of the big reasons West leapfrogged over Davis on the depth chart was his ability to play in the passing game not just as a receiver, but more importantly as a pass blocker. Davis has had his struggles over the last few years when trying to block. Not only is West the better blocker of the two, but he is the more natural pass catcher as well – this means West is likely to be on the field in the vast majority of passing situations.

Another reason West made the jump is he possesses a similar running style to Charles. He has the ability, though not nearly at the same level, to move laterally prior to going downhill while Davis is much more of a north-south runner. In Andy Reid’s offense, the ability to move laterally is a big deal, likely giving West the edge.

The goal line is going to be a different story though. Due in part to the size difference and the difference in running styles, I would expect Davis to receive most if not all of the short yardage and goal line work. While West might get a few chances, if he struggles to convert the first few times he isn’t going to get another chance.

Advantage: West on all but the short yardage work

What can we expect moving forward?

At this point in time, it is all conjecture, but I expect West to be the running back to own in this situation. He’s been acting as the clear backup to Charles over the last few weeks and he seems to be the better fit in all situations other than the goal line work. However, the situation is far from locked in stone. West doesn’t have a history of being the guy at any point in time, but Davis has shown he can be reasonably productive in that role. Should West struggle, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Davis to get a shot at the early down work, but West is going to get his chance first.

From a production standpoint, I would expect Davis to win the touchdown battle but West will likely have more carries, yards and receptions. He obviously won’t be as productive as Charles has been, because Charles made the offensive line look a lot better than they really are, but West should be able to put up low end RB2 numbers in PPR leagues with an outside chance at a touchdown each week. The committee with Davis and lack of touchdown potential due to his role will limit his ceiling, but if you’re struggling due to injury, he could be a good option for you.

Long term, I expect Charles to come back next year but the injury history and his increasing age are definitely concerns. If West or Davis establishes themselves over the next few months, we could be looking at the future of the franchise. For that reason alone, I think they both need to be owned in all dynasty leagues.


jacob feldman