Jamaal Charles Released: What’s the Fantasy Football Impact?

After being released by Kansas City, what is in store for Charles, and what might the Chiefs' backfield look like in 2017?

After nine seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, running back Jamaal Charles has reportedly been released by the organization:

Injuries have limited Charles to just eight games over the past two years after he tore his right ACL in 2015 and then had work done on his meniscus this past November. The 30-year-old runner has had injuries to both knees over the course of his career and was slated for a $6.2 million cap hit in 2017.

While injuries hobbled him towards the end of his time in Kansas City, Charles put up a spectacular career to date that's worth revisiting. His ability to impact both the running game and the passing game was crucial for the Chiefs, and it made Charles a fantasy star.

What could be the next move for Charles, and how does his departure impact the Chiefs' backfield for 2017?

End of an Era

Charles truly put up some historic numbers during his time in Kansas City.

Year Rush Att Rush Yds Rush TDs Rec Rec Yds Rec TDs Total NEP PPR Finish
2008 67 357 0 27 272 1 36th 55th
2009 190 1120 7 40 297 1 5th 11th
2010 230 1467 5 45 468 3 1st 4th
2011 12 83 0 5 9 1 123rd 105th
2012 285 1509 5 35 236 1 31st 9th
2013 259 1287 12 70 693 7 1st 1st
2014 206 1033 9 40 291 5 5th 7th
2015 71 364 4 21 177 1 24th 51st
2016 12 40 1 2 14 0 124th 112th

Charles finished as the franchise's all-time rushing leader while being selected to four Pro Bowls. His career 5.5 yards per carry is the highest in NFL history among all running backs.

He finished in the top-five among all running backs in Total Net Expected Points (NEP) four different times. His 2010 campaign produced the eighth-highest Total NEP among all running backs in our database, which dates back to 2000.

Fantasy-wise, he logged five seasons with top-12 finishes in points-per-reception (PPR) formats. The versatile back was a reliant fantasy workhorse for many years thanks to his ability to flourish both running and catching the football.

Possible Landing Spots

Recent reports have Charles looking healthy after his surgeries, and his recovery is reportedly progressing quite well.

The market isn't ripe for 30-year old running backs with multiple knee injuries. This year's incoming rookie class has several players with the potential to evolve into some NFL-caliber studs, and it wouldn't be shocking to see quite a few of them turn into fantasy assets as rookies.

Our own Joe Redemann took a look recently at every team's draft needs based on analytics and quite a few teams could use an upgrade at running back. While his study was intended to focus on the incoming rookies, several of the teams he listed -- Green Bay, Indianapolis and Minnesota, to cherry-pick a few -- may be fits for a veteran of Charles' caliber and skillset.

The Colts make some sense as a combination of veterans Frank Gore and Charles could be a nice tandem. Robert Turbin, Gore's backup in 2016, is a free agent, and the Colts could use a receiving complement for Gore.

The Packers also seem like a good fit. If Charles is looking to play for a perennial playoff contender, the Packers make sense. Eddie Lacy is slated to be a free agent, and while the Ty Montgomery experiment worked to some degree, adding another back to the mix could help improve the Packers' run balance.

Another contender that just opened up some availability at the running back position is the Vikings. Minnesota's shutdown defense combined with the recent play of Sam Bradford, who is coming off a good year, could make Minnesota an appealing destination. Neither Jerick McKinnon nor Matt Asiata excelled in 2016 -- although a poor offensive line didn't help -- so the Vikings could be looking to upgrade the position.

Unfortunately for Charles, it may be a while until he hears the phone ring. The quality and depth of this incoming rookie class may put the breaks on the free-agent market for running backs. There will inevitably still be a market for a player of Charles' ilk, it just might not come to fruition until late in the free-agent process.

Ware Do the Chiefs Go From Here?

Andy Reid's running backs have historically fared extremely well. Dating back to 2007, Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, and Charles have had a collective five finishes in the top-12 among all PPR skill players. Could we see a fourth player emerge this year?

At this point, it appears that the Chiefs will likely lean heavily on Spencer Ware as their feature back heading into 2017. After a brief breakout in 2015, Ware took on quite a prominent role in 2016 with the Chiefs.

Year Rush Att Rush Yds Rush TDs Rec Rec Yds Rec TDs Total NEP PPR Finish
2015 72 403 6 6 5 0 39th 59th
2016 214 921 3 33 447 2 28th 17th

Entering his age-25 season, Ware is a back with plenty of room to improve. He finished as the overall RB17 in PPR leagues while scoring just five touchdowns (three rushing, two receiving). He racked up the 15th-most tackles avoided last year (30) and among backs with at least 100 carries, he ranked in the top 10 in Success Rate -- runs that positively impacted NEP. Ware also sported the fifth-highest Reception NEP among these heavy-carry running backs while netting nearly 63 percent of his team's running-back touches.

Under Reid's tutelage, the Chiefs have ranked 14th, 9th, 6th and 14th in rushing play percentage. It looks like Ware will get opportunities in this offense, and we may have seen the bottom range of his potential outcomes with so few touchdowns last year. Over the past 10 years, only 17 other running backs have eclipsed the 200-carry mark and had three or fewer rushing touchdowns. In their respective following seasons, every one of those backs who netted at least 100 carries ended up scoring more touchdowns. Positive touchdown regression should be in store for Ware if he sees another big workload.

Despite signing an identical contract to Ware last offseason, Charcandrick West inherited the change-of-pace role. West figures to still be in the mix after picking up 88 carries last season. Dynamic receiver Tyreek Hill will also likely play a role as he was featured out of the backfield some in 2016, but unless they add an impact back through the draft or free agency, it's probably safe to expect the Chiefs' ground game to flow through Ware.

While Kansas City may have lost one of the most iconic running backs in team history, Ware has the potential to come in and put up good numbers.

Charles' flowing dreadlocks racing down the sideline will be remembered fondly by Chiefs fans and fantasy enthusiasts alike. But if history has taught us anything, it's that we shouldn't underestimate Reid's ability to churn out productive running-back seasons. Next batter up, Spencer Ware.