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Charcandrick West is a League-Winner

On October 13th, Jamaal Charles was placed on season-ending injured reserve. A few days later, ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher was quoted with this take on Charcandrick West:

“Quietly, they kind of like West. The term has been used to me, ‘a poor man’s Jamaal Charles.’ They think there are a lot of similarities in how they go about business.”

In the four games since, West has established himself as the lead back in Kansas City’s offense. He rode two straight 20-point fantasy performances into their Week 9 bye, and had his best game of the season in Week 10 against Denver. As Andy Reid’s lead back, he’s well-positioned to be a fantasy football monster over the rest of the season.

Opportunity

I discussed in last week’s Handcuff Power Rankings how Andy Reid’s lead back has historically seen a ton of volume.1

First, let’s discuss the opportunity Andy Reid gives his running backs. It is in many ways unrivaled. According to FFToday, over the last 11 seasons Reid’s lead back has finished in the top 12 in points per game ten times.2 Here is what the workload for Reid’s lead back has looked like dating back to 2001:

image01

As you can see, Reid’s feature backs consistently stay very involved in the passing game and score TDs at a very high rate.

Though I used this chart and argument in defense of Davis, I actually came up with it earlier last week while researching West. It’s a good argument for the value of the handcuff in this offense, but the person this information applies to most immediately is the man currently occupying the position. In the four games since Charles’s injury, West has seen a 67.6 percent market share of rushes and 14.4 percent market share of targets, very much in line with these historical numbers.

What’s perhaps more interesting is that in the first game following Charles’s injury, West only saw nine carries and two targets, while Davis saw five carries and one target. There didn’t seem to be much clarity to the Chiefs’ backfield in that loss to Minnesota.

If we look at just the last three games, however, West has clearly been the guy. His market shares in those games stand at 71 percent of rushes and 18.2 percent of pass attempts, which are both on the high end of Reid’s historical usage rates. It further helps West’s cause that the Chiefs won all three games in this period, snapping a five-game losing streak in the process. With Davis being a healthy scratch this week, there’s little reason to believe the Chiefs plan to go away from this anytime soon.

Schedule

While the opportunity provides a great floor, perhaps a bigger reason to love West is his upcoming schedule. The Buy Low Machine assigns a rating from 0-100 for each matchup (for each position), with 100 being the best matchup. Here is a look at Kansas City’s remaining schedule as both a heat map and as an average numerical value.

ChartCharcandrickWest

That is absurd. Look at that “SOS Target Weeks” column! For the next six weeks, Kansas City RBs don’t just project to have an easy schedule; they project to have a schedule that is far and away better than every other team in football. It’s not rocket science what that means for Charcandrick’s potential, given a massive workload.

Empty Efficiency

There’s only one potential red flag here. Apart from a few big plays, West hasn’t been particularly efficient. Using the Fantasy Efficiency App, we can compare West’s weekly opportunity and efficiency to Reid’s lead backs dating back to 2001.

Year Player GP ruEP/GP ruFPOE/GP reEP/GP reFPOE/GP RB Rank PPG Rank
2014 J. Charles 15 6.23 4.33 5.67 0.94 7 8
2013 J. Charles 15 9.07 4.28 9.92 2.16 1 1
2012 L. McCoy 12 7.74 0.24 7.78 1.32 16 11
2011 L. McCoy 15 9.76 5.77 6.68 -0.18 2 2
2010 L. McCoy 15 5.79 4.21 8.27 1.58 3 6
2009 L. McCoy 16 4.16 1.25 4.50 -0.08 32 43
2008 B. Westbrook 14 7.95 2.52 7.70 1.16 10 5
2007 B. Westbrook 15 8.14 3.54 11.08 2.06 2 2
2006 B. Westbrook 15 6.95 3.96 9.65 1.74 6 4
2005 B. Westbrook 12 5.03 1.61 10.76 1.46 18 12
2004 B. Westbrook 13 5.77 1.86 8.85 4.94 10 10
2003 B. Westbrook 15 3.17 3.71 4.33 1.95 20 21
2002 Duce Staley 16 7.51 0.67 6.01 1.68 15 15
2001 Duce Staley 13 5.84 -0.27 9.44 1.14 20 16
Average 6.65 2.69 7.90 1.56 11.57 11.14

Here are West’s numbers since Charles went down, and his average in each category.

Week ruEP ruFPOE reEP reFPOE RB Rank
6 3.76 -0.46 2.65 -1.05 43
7 16.39 0.61 8.43 -4.53 8
8 7.53 8.17 8.13 -1.63 3
10 10 2.9 6.4 11.8 2
Average 9.42 2.81 6.40 1.15 14

On the surface it compares favorably. But as I mentioned, he’s been reliant on big plays.

For instance, while West has averaged 4.12 yards per carry in the four games since Charles’s injury, long runs have boosted that rate. If we remove his longest rush from each of his last four games we are left with 71 carries for 217 yards, barely three yards per rush.3 Granted this is an arbitrary measure, but the discrepancy is over 25 percent of West’s rushing yardage, quite a hefty chunk for his one long run per game compared to the other 18 he’s been averaging.

Furthermore, heading into last week West had been exceptionally inefficient as a receiver, averaging -0.71 fantasy points per target versus expectation. Part of that was an average depth of target more than two yards behind the line of scrimmage4, and part of that was a very low catch rate (he had hauled in just nine of 19 targets prior to last week). Obviously his receiving efficiency improved dramatically when he took a short pass 80 yards for a TD against Denver, but he only caught three of his five targets in that game, a 60 percent catch rate that is still low for a RB.5 It’s another example of reliance on big plays for what looks to be better efficiency than he’s actually shown on the vast majority of his touches.

Reason for Optimism

Normally this type of thing would be a red flag. But consider the matchup discrepancy during the four-game stretch since Charles went down. During that period, Kansas City RBs averaged a 39 on The Buy Low Machine6 — not a particularly difficult stretch, but also a far cry from what West will see going forward.

Also consider that poor efficiency on the bulk of his touches is still a relatively small sample size, particularly with respect to his catch rate.7

Lastly, consider that West has popped off at least one 30+ yard play in each of the three games where he’s seen the true Andy Reid lead RB share. It looks like a mistake to completely discount his ability as a big-play threat.

It’s not just undeserved optimism to suggest he should improve his efficiency. With the dramatically improved schedule and more general comfortability with increased playing time in the offense, the safe bet is to believe he should show more consistency on the bulk of his touches. And while the frequency of his big plays will likely come back to Earth a bit, he’ll continue to see big volume against weaker defenses. One would have to believe we’ll see some more of those 30+ yard plays the rest of the way.

Conclusion

Even with slightly below average efficiency, however, West’s expected workload and schedule make him an undervalued asset. For those of you in leagues that have not had a trade deadline yet, he’s a great target. Though his Week 10 outburst certainly raised his cost, it seems reasonable that you could acquire him for something like a high-end RB2 price. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find five RBs with more ROS upside than West, and his workload and schedule give him a strong floor. There is plenty of plus value in paying RB2 price.

If we look at this in terms of DFS, West’s receiving workload certainly makes him more valuable on DraftKings, where his price actually dropped $300 after his monster performance in Week 10. He goes into Week 11 at $4,500, which is a steal of a value against the bright green matchup that is the San Diego Chargers. He should be highly owned on both sites, but I think it’s a mistake to fade a workload like this in a matchup like the one he has.

Whether it’s DFS or season-long, the Charcnado has league-winning potential for the rest of the 2015 season. Don’t miss out.

  1. By the way, this was in defense of Knile Davis, who was a healthy scratch in Week 10. Go ahead and apply about 90 percent of what I said about Davis in that piece to new heir-apparent Spencer Ware (shout out to 14TeamMocker for calling this one correctly).  (back)
  2. among qualified RBs  (back)
  3. 3.06 to be exact  (back)
  4. per PFF  (back)
  5. On the plus side, his aDOT was positive 2.4 yards in Week 10.  (back)
  6. if we isolate just the last three weeks where West got a bigger share of the work, the average matchup rating is a 44  (back)
  7. To this point, PFF only has Charcandrick seeing 22 targets on the season compared to the 24 on ProFootballReference, which suggests a couple of his targets were throwaways.  (back)

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