6 Reasons to Pick Jamaal Charles First Overall in Your Fantasy Football League

Jamaal Charles is our number one overall player for the upcoming season, and these six reasons show why.

Having the first overall pick in a fantasy football league and being able to choose any player is a blessing and a curse.

Picking the guy who has a huge year exceeding expectations is a great start toward winning a fantasy football championship. On the flip side, having the first overall pick miss most of the year or not live up to expectations will have a fantasy owner wishing they picked anyone but him.

This dilemma leaves fantasy owners stressing over who to take with that first overall pick.

Luckily, we rank every player available, so you don't have to worry about making your own rankings from scratch. But if you're still worrying about who to take first overall, then know that  Jamaal Charles tops our list among non-quarterbacks.

Our own  Scott Barrett did a great job earlier in the offseason of diving into whether Charles is worth a top three pick, and I'm going to show why he should be picked before every other player.

1. High Ceiling and Low Risk

The target of the first overall pick should obviously be the player who each owner thinks will score the most points for his or her team, but also a player unlikely to bust and turn a season into a failure.

While nobody has a crystal ball, we do have confidence intervals based on our projections to measure each player’s likely range of outcomes.

According to our projections, Charles has an extremely high ceiling with the potential to reach 297.06 standard fantasy points this season. That would leave him well above all other running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, and behind five quarterbacks in total points, provided that everybody else hits their median projection.

Under the same assumption, his floor (based on our confidence intervals) would only drop him to the fifth best running back. The risk is minimal.

And only one other back has a ceiling (again, based on our confidence intervals) of greater than 275 points:  Marshawn Lynch (293.46). The reward could be immense.

2. Supreme Analytics

The chart below shows Charles' Rushing  Net Expected Points (NEP) per carry since 2010. NEP indicates how a player impacts his team's chance of scoring actual points compared to how other players have performed in the same situations historically.

The ranks are among backs with at least 150 carries in the given season. (Charles didn’t have 150 carries in his 2008 rookie season and only played two games in 2011 because of injury, so those years were left off.)  

Year Rushing NEP Per Carry Rank
2014 0.11 1st
2013 0.05 7th
2012 0.01 11th
2011 0.19 1st
2010 0.13 1st

As  Brandon Gdula pointed out last season, among the 17 running backs with 1,000 or more carries since Charles entered the league, he is the only one to have a positive Rushing NEP in every season (excluding his shortened 2011 season).

He has led the league in this category three times since taking over as a starter, and his lowest rank of 11th reaffirms his high floor from an on-field efficiency standpoint.

Just for some added context: only 17 of the 60 running backs from 2014 who saw at least 75 carries maintained a Rushing NEP per carry of 0.00 or better. Running the ball isn't an efficient way to put points on the board, but you wouldn't know it from looking at Charles.

3. An Improved Chiefs Offense

The blocking was terrible last year (causing even the quiet-natured Charles  to speak out against their play), the wide receivers combined to catch zero touchdown passes, and Charles still had a big season, ranking third among backs in cumulative Rushing NEP (22.10).

The  27th-ranked run blocking offensive line has undergone a big makeover and will likely begin 2015 with four new starters. In between them and Charles is still Anthony Sherman, who was the league's best run blocking full back in 2014, according to Pro Football Focus

Travis Kelce will look to build on a promising 2014 season, during which he ranked seventh among tight ends in terms of Reception NEP despite lacking a huge amount of snaps. No longer will he be held back by the presence of Anthony Fasano, and our projections have him finishing as the third best tight end in fantasy football. 

Outside of Kelce,  Jeremy Maclin was brought in as well. Maclin ranked ninth in Reception NEP (111.21) among receivers last year. 

As long as  Alex Smith is the quarterback, the Chiefs will lean on Charles primarily. With better blocking, and receiving threats to garner defensive attention, life should be easier for him this season.

4. No Competition for Carries

In the age where many teams are using a running back by committee, Charles remains a rare feature back.

No, Knile Davis is not a legitimate threat to Charles’ fantasy value.

Davis has averaged 3.5 yards per carry in both years of his short career so far. He had a rush longer than four yards in only six games last season and caught more than one pass in only two games. The chart below shows how he has fared in his first two seasons among running backs with 50 or more carries according to our metrics.

Year Eligible Running Backs Rushing NEP Per Play Rank Success Rate Rank
2013 67 -0.12 59th 28.57% 67th
2014 73 -0.16 67th 31.34% 69th

His Success Rate (which measures the percentage of plays resulting in a positive NEP) ranked dead last in the league in 2013, and he didn't improve much last season as his numbers only put him ahead of a handful of other players. Davis, evidenced by his low Success Rate, is an all-or-nothing type of player, and his big plays haven't resulted in a net positive for the Chiefs.

5. Yards per Carry

The top five running backs for the upcoming season according to our predictions are Charles, Lynch, Adrian PetersonLe’Veon Bell, and Eddie Lacy.

Charles has averaged 5.0 yards per carry or better in all of his NFL seasons.

Lynch has only accomplished that mark in one season, and Peterson has done it twice. The rest of the top five have never reached that mark, and Lynch and Bell have each averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry in at least one season. 

6. He Can Catch

The chart below shows how Jamaal Charles fared as a receiver over the past two seasons compared to the rest of the projected top five running backs. Peterson’s data is from 2012-2013 (rather than 2013-2014 like all of the other backs in the chart) because he only played in one game last season.

Jamaal Charles3011098412
Marshawn Lynch32736836
Le'Veon Bell2912812533
Eddie Lacy31776844
Adrian Peterson30693882

Bell is the only back with more receptions or yards over the past two seasons, and remember I mentioned the Chiefs wide receivers catching no touchdowns last year? 

Most of those would-be touchdown passes went to Charles instead. The other four top five running backs combined to catch only three more touchdown passes than Charles alone over their past two seasons.