Jamaal Charles is one of the most unique players in NFL history. At “5-foot-11, 199 pounds,” he’s built more like a kicker than generational talent at running back. And yet, through 1,320 rushes, only Michael Vick, Randall Cunningham and Marion Motley have managed more yards per carry for a career. Charles’ lifetime 5.46 YPC puts him one spot ahead of Jim Brown, and two ahead of Gale Sayers, Barry Sanders and Adrian Peterson. His career-low YPC is 5.0.
Built like a paperweight, Charles has been more effective than most of the game’s heavyweights. That’s why it was all the more devastating when he went down untouched on Sunday. The game’s premier featherweight wasn’t felled by a 320-pound defensive lineman, but the turf. Charles planted his right leg, and that was that. After two decades of touches and lord knows how many hits, his ACL’s time was up.
Now the Chiefs’ time is up. Already going nowhere, the Chiefs don’t have a prayer of getting back into the AFC playoff race without their best player. For fantasy owners, the situation is similarly bleak. Whereas Knile Davis was once one of the league’s most locked-in handcuffs, he’s now behind Charcandrick West on the depth chart. If you’re a Charles owner who burned your 12th-round pick on Davis in August, you need to use your top waiver priority on West. Even then, the duo is likely headed for a committee, further muddying what had been one of the league’s most straightforward situations.
If there’s “good” news, it’s for Travis Kelce and Jeremy Maclin owners. With Charles no longer around to bail out coach Andy Reid’s questionable game planning, he has to focus on the best players he has left. Anyone who’s ever watched a Chiefs game knows Reid struggles to get the ball in his playmakers’ hands, but Charles’ injury provides clarity even Reed can’t miss.
Hopefully Charles is back next year and stronger than ever. If not, he’s already carved out a career worth passing down through the football ages, one that should be recognized in Canton.
Five Week 5 Positives
Dion Lewis realizing Shane Vereen’s potential. For three years, fantasy owners tried to will Vereen into RB2 territory in New England. For three years, he couldn’t even get to the doorstep. Lewis has, bursting through the door in the process. The Browns and Colts castoff has three touchdowns through four games, and is averaging 105 yards from scrimmage. That puts him on pace for 1,672, which would be 834 more than Vereen ever managed. That’s unrealistic, but 1,000 is essentially guaranteed, while anything less than 1,200 would be a disappointment. A huge part of the Pats’ constantly-evolving offense, Lewis’ two-year, $4.4 million extension was an indication he’s there to stay in New England. The same should be true of his RB2 status. RB1 isn’t out of the question for a back who broke four tackles on his Sunday score.
Todd Gurley’s continued emergence. The Rams would have gotten blown out of Lambeau Field if not for Gurley’s electric running. Powerful, fast and patient — even as he continued to sport a knee brace — Gurley ground out tough yards between the tackles while also gliding around the edge. Now averaging 5.71 yards per carry through his first 55 totes, Gurley has the looks of a scarily-talented player. At the risk of hyperbole, he’s shown flashes of Adrian Peterson’s raw strength and speed in the open field. There will be the occasional hiccup in St. Louis’ otherwise dismal offense, but Gurley has gone from upside bench stash to high-end RB2 to legit RB1 in the matter of three weeks. He’ll be a top-five option against the Browns’ league-worst run defense when the Rams come off their Week 6 bye.
Gary Barnidge’s solidification of his TE1 status. The Ravens entered Week 5 allowing the fewest fantasy points to tight ends. They had allowed eight tight end grabs all season. Barnidge doubled that, posting a career-high 139 yards. Barnidge’s previous season-high was 242 in 2009. The 30-year-old journeyman has managed at least 75 yards in three straight games, and is now a top-three tight end on the year. Josh McCown’s go-to target, Barnidge is a wave worth riding after Sunday’s performance.
The Dougernaut’s continued revival. Doug Martin partied like it was 2012, piling up 158 yards and three touchdowns on 27 touches. He averaged over five yards per carry for the second straight week, and is up to 4.5 on the season. Martin still comes with plenty of risk in an offense that could be torpedoed by Jameis Winston’s turnover-prone ways at any given moment, but he’s earned the RB2 benefit of the doubt, even for tough matchups like the one he has with the Redskins after the Bucs' Week 6 bye.
Tyrod Taylor’s resiliency. For the second straight week, the Bills’ aerial attack failed to take off in the absence of Sammy Watkins, but Taylor still saved his team and fantasy owners with his legs. A true dual threat who always seems to have a big running play in his back pocket, Taylor can keep things afloat with his legs as the Bills figure out what to do with his arm. Like Cam Newton and Tim Tebow before him, Taylor will keep the points flowing even if he sometimes procures them in ugly fashion.
Five Week 6 Negatives
Matthew Stafford’s benching. Stafford entered halftime of Sunday’s (latest) loss the owner of two picks. Coach Jim Caldwell told him he’d get benched if he threw another. Five minutes into the third quarter, the deed was done. The benching was the culmination of not only Stafford’s struggles, but the Lions’. Caldwell’s squad is no longer just stuck in neutral: It’s rolling backwards down the hill. Stafford is not *the* issue, of course. He’s been terrible, but still gives the Lions their best chance to win. The issue is a team with an aging core and sub-par coaching staff. Stafford clearly needs to be managed and manipulated to achieve success, but 2011 and 2014 proved it’s possible. Caldwell simply isn’t up to the challenge. It’s going to take a Bruce Arians-type talent to get Stafford’s career back on track.
Peyton Manning’s continued regression. Manning tossed multiple picks for the second consecutive start, and is now the owner of a 6:7 TD:INT ratio through his first five games. Sunday’s two-INT, TD-less performance came against arguably the worst secondary in the league. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that Manning’s completion percentage and YPA have stabilized over his past three starts, but he’s simply not challenging defenses at an above-average level, let alone an elite one. He’ll be hard to trust as a QB1 in next week’s matchup with the Browns.
Mike Evans’ slump. Targeted a meager five times, Evans caught three passes for 41 yards, leaving him at just 13/174 through four games. Evans' upside remains monstrous, but perhaps he’s still feeling the effects of his hamstring injury. That, coupled with Jameis Winston’s wildly inconsistent play is rendering someone who should be a WR1 no more than a boom-or-bust WR2. Evans gets the Redskins’ improving pass defense in Week 6.
Odell Beckham tweaking his hamstring. Beckham swore the injury didn’t occur as he salsa’d in tribute to Victor Cruz, but either way it sidelined him for the majority of a nail-biting fourth quarter. The good news is, Beckham was able to return as a decoy for New York’s game-winning series, and said afterward he didn’t believe the ailment was serious. Any hamstring issue is serious for a player with Beckham’s injury history, but for now his Week 6 status is not in doubt.
Jimmy Graham’s continued disappearance. The Seahawks are having trouble sparking their offense, but seem intent on not forcing the issue with their big offseason acquisition. Graham has drawn more than five targets only twice in five games, and is averaging 5.4 weekly looks. That’s fewer than Gary Barnidge, and as many as Jared Cook. We’d like to believe Graham is a sleeping giant ready to be awakened, but the Seahawks have never locked onto one pass catcher at the expense of the group. Graham seemed ripe to be the exception, but it’s beginning to look like that won’t be the case.
1. Are the Saints the worst team in the NFL?
2. Can the Giants do anything normally?
3. Are the Colts ever going to lose another game against the AFC South?
Early Waiver Look (Players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Stats of the Week
Randall Cobb’s 23 receiving yards were his fewest since Week 3, 2012. There wasn’t any indication his shoulder was bothering him against the Rams, but it’s something to keep an eye on going forward.
Aaron Rodgers’ INT-less streak at Lambeau Field lasted 1,043 days and 586 passes. His new streak lasted all of six throws.
C.J. Anderson has just 214 yards from scrimmage. He managed 195 in a single game against the Dolphins last season.
Andy Dalton is averaging 9.49 yards per attempt. That’s over two yards higher than his career-best mark of 7.33 from 2013.
Via @ChrisWesseling: The Cardinals’ +100 point differential is the best through five games since the 2007 Patriots.
Five of the league’s top 10 rushers were drafted in 2008 or earlier.