Charcandrick West Can Be a Fantasy Football Difference-Maker Over the Second Half of the Season
Every season, we see one or two players emerge mid-year -- either through an injury to a starter or a role change -- and turn into fantasy superstars.
This season's candidate for such a breakout is the Kansas City Chiefs' new starting running back Charcandrick West.
Despite falling flat in his first game after Jamaal Charles' season-ending injury, West rewarded fantasy owners that stuck with him in Week 7.
After posting 110 rushing yards and a touchdown while dominating backfield snaps -- West was on the field for 87% of the team's snaps in Week 7 -- West appears to have fully assumed the work-horse role formerly filled by Charles in Andy Reid's offense.
How Valuable Is the Starting Running Back of an Andy Reid Offense?
Andy Reid has been blessed with some great starting running backs over the course of his coaching career -- Charles, LeSean McCoy and Brian Westbrook specifically -- and has never been shy about using them.
Despite a few injury-plagued years factored in, since Westbrook's emergence in 2004, Reid's starting running backs have averaged a 10th place finish among all running backs in fantasy football, per ProFootballReference.com.
Reid has consistently placed a high value on this position in his offense and -- in addition to the fantasy success his running backs have had -- the results have also been apparent on the field.
Dating back to 2004, Reid has been one of the best in the league at effectively utilizing the running game. In fact, in terms of our Adjusted Rushing Net Expected Points per play (Adj RNEP/P in the chart below), teams coached by Reid ranked first in the league from 2004-2014.
|1||Reid (PHI and KC)||0.52|
|5||New York Giants||0.12|
A schedule-adjusted metric, Adjusted Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play allows us to quantify the value a team is adding (or losing) every time it is running the ball.
While West does not appear to have the immense talent of Westbrook, McCoy or Charles, the situation he has been placed into certainly bodes well for his chances of continued fantasy success.
Will West Continue to Dominate the Workload?
Because West has a very limited sample size -- prior to being thrust into the starting role in Week 6, he had 12 career carries -- we need to be careful when examining his production thus far in his limited career.
West's Rushing NEP per play (-.06) is a disappointing 37 out of the 49 running backs with at least 40 carries this season. However, his rushing Success Rate of 51% is good for fifth among that same group. For those unaware, Success Rate is a measurement meant to capture the percentage of runs that result in a positive NEP.
What this tells us is that West is producing positive results -- based on NEP -- on over half of his runs for his team. On a team that struggles to pass the ball -- quarterback Alex Smith is 20th in the league in Passing NEP through Week 7 -- positive runs to set up manageable 2nd- and 3rd-down situations will be important if this Kansas City team has any hope of sustaining drives and staying in games.
This ability to produce positive plays and keep Smith in manageable game situations should only continue to reinforce Reid's decision to start West over the once presumed Charles-handcuff Knile Davis.
By our metrics, Davis was one of the least effective running backs in the league last season. Among the 43 running backs with at least 100 carries in 2014, Davis was 39th in Rushing NEP per play and 43rd in Success Rate.
Reid has traditionally favored one back over a committee approach, and his Week 7 playing time split suggests that he has no immediate plans to change this.
While West's snap count rate of 87% may seem unsustainable, keep in mind that Charles was averaging 81% of the snaps through Week 4. Even a regression down towards 70% would still be among the five highest rates in the league.
What Type of Production Can We Expect Moving Forward?
We currently have West as the 26th-ranked running back for the rest of the season. As many of those ranked near him do, West has questions surrounding him that should keep your optimism at bay a bit.
With his workload share and role in this offense, he does offer weekly upside that many surrounding him in the ranks lack though, keeping him in consideration for a starting spot in your lineup each week.
Also working in West's favor is his upcoming schedule. He'll get matchups against the San Diego Chargers -- whom he'll face twice and are 31st in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP -- the Buffalo Bills (25th), and in Week 16 he'll get the porous Cleveland Browns (32nd).
Costing no more than a waiver claim for many teams, West owners should be quite happy with their acquisition.
While he may not prove to be an RB1 week to week, in the right matchups, he'll offer great upside. He should be in consideration for your RB2 or flex spot every week.