Fantasy Football: Can Spencer Ware Win You Your League?

Ware produced in Week 1, but can he keep it up all season?

Fantasy football owners drool over the prospects of drafting a player in the mid-to-late rounds who can develop into an every-week difference maker at a position.

And Kansas City Chiefs running back Spencer Ware had the type of Week 1 that people lose their minds over.

So, then, the question becomes: amidst concerns about Jamaal Charles and his health, can Spencer Ware win you your league?

Week 1 Reaction

A cardinal sin of fantasy football is failing to adjust for trends that have made themselves apparent. While this question may seem to be the result of an overreaction, it's clear that Ware is immensely talented and has played himself into a significant season-long role.

In a game that the Chiefs were trailing for the majority of, Ware carried the ball just 11 times as the negative game script phased the running game out. He aggregated 70 yards on those rushes (6.36 yards per carry) and punched in a touchdown, but where he made the biggest -- and perhaps the most surprising -- impact was in the passing game. He caught 7 of a team-leading 8 targets for 129 yards, outplaying supposed passing-game back Charcandrick West in the process.

Let’s be clear -- Ware wasn’t expected to get all this receiving work. Although he showcased some of his newfound pass-catching prowess in the preseason -- hauling in eight passes -- he had six receptions all of last season, yet surpassed that output after a single game.

Analysts prognosticated that West would see the majority of the passing-down work, and that Knile Davis may even sprinkle in for a few touches here and there. But that didn’t come close to happening.

Should we have seen this coming? And more importantly, how sustainable is it?

Workhorse Usage

Per Scott Barrett of Pro Football Focus Fantasy, since 2007, Andy Reid’s RB1 has averaged 78 percent of the team’s running back snaps, 77 percent of the team’s running back carries, and 81 percent of the team’s running back targets. This translates to an average of 15.6 carries, 5.0 targets, 105.1 all-purpose yards, 0.84 touchdowns, and 19.7 fantasy points per game.

This is colossal usage, usage that results in high-end RB1 performances week after week. For all the preseason talk of utilizing Ware and West in a committee, Reid’s historical tendencies indicated otherwise.

Ware and West did split snaps evenly, stepping on the field for 34 snaps apiece. Ware didn't dominate the backfield snaps, but he dominated just about everything else. Despite the even playing time, Ware had the ball in his hands on more than half of his snaps, logging 18 touches to West's 9 and out-gaining West 199 yards to 23.


Here at numberFire, we use a metric called Net Expected Points (NEP) to help us quantify the real impact a player is having for his team based on down, distance, and historical data. If you'd like to learn more about NEP, you can find more information in our glossary.

Last year, among backs with 50 or more carries in 2015, Ware's Rushing NEP per rush of 0.20 ranked second in the NFL.

Then, of the 32 players who had at least 10 rushing attempts in Week 1, Ware’s 0.37 Rushing NEP per rush was the highest. He also ranked first in Rushing Success Rate, or the percentage of carries that go for a positive NEP.

Not only was he contributing big plays, but he was also gaining positive yards in chunks consistently.

So Ware was the NFL's most efficient and effective rusher in Week 1, but he was also the fourth most efficient receiver by Reception NEP per target (1.16), among players with at least 8 targets -- trailing just Willie Snead, Antonio Brown, and Brandin Cooks.

What About That Other Guy?

Jamaal Charles is one of the most efficient running backs of all time and ranks first all time in yards per carry among running backs. He's still one of the best all-around running backs in the league, but he may miss another week as he continues to rehab his knee injury.

The Chiefs can afford to take their time with Charles because they have a star on their hands.

Last season, Ware scored a touchdown and surpassed 75 yards in each game where he was fed at least 10 touches, and this was all while he was giving owners nothing in the passing game. He's capable of handling a three-down workload, has a nose for the end zone, and has shown that he can be a pass-catching weapon.

If for whatever reason Ware is available in your league, put in a waiver claim immediately.

It has become very clear that Ware needs a role in this offense. Ware should have standalone flex value as the presumed goal-line back even with Charles in the lineup, but he possesses league-winning upside if Charles were to have trouble staying healthy.