Player Points - Jamaal Charles
By Chase Stuart
April 27th, 2010

In the first half of the 2009 season, Jamaal Charles was a total nonfactor: he rushed for just 152 yards in seven games. In the second half of the season, Charles rushed for an incredible 968 yards and averaged 6.01 yards per carry.

Fantasy football has seen these second-half explosions by young running backs before, only to watch that runner do nothing more than tease fantasy owners for years to come. Kevin Jones and William Green come to mind. On the other hand, Corey Dillon and Jamal Lewis also had breakout finishes early in their careers which preceded a decade of strong play. It's impossible to predict how Charles' career will unfold, but we can take a look at how unprecedented his 2009 split was.

I looked at all running backs since 1990 that played in at least four games in both his team's first and last 8 games of the season. I then compared each RB's per-game rushing average in the first and second halves of the season. Charles averaged 22 rushing yards per game in the first half of '09 and 121 rushing yards in the second half; that's an increase of 99 rushing yards per game. And, in the data set I just described, that makes him the fastest finisher out there. Below are the 30 running backs with the largest increase in rushing yards per game from the first to second halves of the season from 1990 to 2008:

Player
First
GMs
Second
GMs
Diff
Age
Larry Johnson
506
8
1,244
8
92
26
Corey Dillon
196
8
933
8
92
23
Kevin Jones
227
7
906
8
81
22
Nick Goings
88
8
733
8
81
26
Ladell Betts
283
8
871
8
74
27
William Green
151
8
736
8
73
23
Ryan Grant
186
7
770
8
70
25
Terrell Fletcher
34
5
509
7
66
25
Lorenzo White
148
7
609
7
66
28
Peyton Hillis
14
5
329
5
63
22
Dominic Rhodes
285
7
819
8
62
22
Jamal Lewis
437
8
927
8
61
21
Curtis Martin
500
8
987
8
61
22
DeAngelo Williams
522
8
993
8
59
25
Thomas Jones
79
7
548
8
57
25
Derrick Blaylock
150
7
389
5
56
25
Pierre Thomas
124
8
501
7
56
24
Errict Rhett
284
8
727
8
55
24
Ron Dayne
183
6
429
5
55
28
Fred Taylor
510
8
714
6
55
28
Jerome Bettis
278
7
663
7
55
32
Fred Taylor
371
5
1,028
8
54
24
Clinton Portis
682
7
909
6
54
22
Tiki Barber
190
6
675
8
53
26
Domanick Williams
360
7
828
8
52
24
Kolby Smith
0
8
407
8
51
23
Fred Taylor
583
8
989
8
51
27
Warrick Dunn
366
8
767
8
50
25
Marcell Shipp
206
7
628
8
49
24
J.J. Johnson
194
8
364
5
49
25

I also looked at running backs aged 21 to 24, who rushed for at least 40 more rushing yards in the second half of the season than the first, and played in at least ten games the next season. These running backs averaged 14.5 fantasy points per game in season N (the fast finish season) and 13.6 fantasy points per game in season N+1. Regression to the mean mandates that most good players regress a little bit the next season, so those results aren't surprising. They're not surprising, that is, if you expect the running back to play how he played on average in Year N, and not how he played in just the second half of year N.

It's easy to fall in love with a player like Charles who just dominates in the second half of the season. That's our lasting impression of the player. In what may be a good thing for his fantasy value, the signing of Thomas Jones should temper expectations for Charles' production in 2009. Kansas City also drafted Dexter McCluster in the second round of the draft, but the Chiefs envision him playing mostly as a wide receiver and wildcat QB, and not at running back.

And, of course, no player is an average of his historical comps. That's especially true for an outlier like Charles who had the most drastic split of anyone in our study. I'm not telling you anything you didn't know, unless you thought Charles was going to rush for nearly 2,000 yards on 6.0 yards per carry this year. At least for now, he's not Chris Johnson.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to stuart@footballguys.com.

© 2010 Footballguys - All Rights Reserved