The Titans running back made $32,000 for every yard rushed on Sunday
Chris Johnson, the once speedy Tennessee Titans running back used to be a game breaker. Then, this offseason, he signed a giant new contract. And something seems different. He doesn't have that same explosiveness he used to. And he's definitely not putting up the same numbers he did in previous years, back when he was a hungry young runner, looking to establish himself in the National Football League.
Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season is in the books. Here are some numbers that stood out to me from the Week 1 action that's already happened.
-2 How many owners were screaming at the final play of Sunday night's Cowboys-Jets game when Felix Jones was the last to touch the ball? He was the last of many to lateral the ball as the Cowboys tried to score on the final play from their own 34. And Jones' last touch ended up in the hands of Jets DL Jamaal Westerman. The result will be minus-2 points in many fantasy leagues for the fumble lost by Jones, and perhaps the difference in a win or loss come Tuesday morning.
1 - Targets Green Bay Packers WR James Jones received Thursday night in 20 snaps of action. He turned it into one catch for one yard. Why did he re-sign with the Packers again? Was it just to jumble this receiving corps up even more for fantasy owners?
4 & 1 - Tampa Bay WR Mike Williams and Houston's Andre Johnson were each targeted a league-high four times in the red zone. Johnson caught two of his, including one for a score. Williams caught one of his for a score.
5 -We're down on Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez this year because his numbers have declined. However, he did receive seven targets Sunday against a solid Bears LB corps, and turned it into five catches for 72 yards. All of those numbers are above his 2010 16-game average of 6.8 targets, 4.4 catches and 41 yards per game. Three targets came in the first quarter, three in the third and one in the fourth. He had the third-longest day of the play for the Falcons, a 30-yard catch in the first quarter.
9.75 - Yards per attempt for Chicago QB Jay Cutler, who completed 22-of-32 passes for 312 yards and two scores. He was still sacked five times, which puts him on pace for 80 this season — well above his league-leading 56 last year.
12 - DeSean Jackson, more known for what he is able to do with limited targets, was the go-to guy for Mike Vick Sunday against St. Louis. Jackson was targeted 96 times over 14 games last season for a 6.9 per game average. Sunday, he was targeted 12 times, one behind league leader Roddy White (ATL). Jackson caught six of the targets for 102 yards and a score. He was targeted double-digit times in just three games last season, including the 2010 opener (11), but keep an eye on this trend as it pertains to how Vick sees the field. TE Brent Celek and WR Jeremy Maclin received just three targets apiece.
13 - The Titans ran the ball just 13 times against Jacksonville, and fell to 0-12 all-time when they have rushed 13 times or fewer. Only three times in Jeff Fisher's tenure did the team run 13 times or less.
21.9 - Wes Welker enters Week 2 with his yards per catch nearly double his career average of 10.9 after an eight-catch, 160-yard performance Monday night against Miami. He was at 9.2 before a 99-yard TD catch in the fourth quarter. He also has his average targets per game well above last year's average of 8.2 after Tom Brady went his way 12 times. That's a good sign for Welker owners as he is still a favorite option despite so many mouths to feed.
21.9 - Fantasy points New Orleans Saints RB/return man Darren Sproles had Thursday night. He tied for the team lead in targets (9) and turned it into seven catches for 75 yards to go with two carries for seven yards. On special teams, he had two punt returns for 92 yards, including a 72-yard TD return, and two kickoff returns for 76 yards.
25 - Matthew Stafford was 18-of-25 for 265 yards, two TDs and an interception by halftime. He went 6-of-8 in the second half with 40 more yards and a score. He had already targeted WR Calvin Johnson seven times, TE Brandon Pettigrew six times and Nate Burleson four times in the first half.
25 - Tim Hightower and Cedric Benson led the league with 25 carries apiece on Sunday. Hightower went for 72 yards and a score with his; Benson scored as well, on a 39-yard run, rushing for 121 yards. Hightower added three catches for 25 yards; Benson had one catch for 2 yards. 18.8 fantasy points for Benson, 18.2 for Higtower.
39 - Minnesota QB Donovan McNabb threw for 39 yards. ... Has that sunk in yet? He threw for 39 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception and added 32 yards rushing for a fantasy day of 9.76 points. It's going to be hard for Adrian Peterson, who miraculously had 98 yards on 16 carries, to consistently find any running room with McNabb stretching the field to the tune of 39 yards.
46 - Denver QB Kyle Orton attempted 46 passes in Monday night's loss to Oakland. And it was not all in the second half as the Broncos attempted to come back. The Broncos ran 33 first-half plays, traling by no more than 10 points, yet 23 of those 33 plays were pass attempts by Orton. He attempted 46 or more passes just twice last season under Josh McDaniels. So just because John Fox came to town, and many worried that the forward pass would cease to exist, Orton should still be slinging the ball.
71 -Dallas WR Dez Bryant had three catches for 71 yards and a score in the first quarter. The first two catches and the score came against New York Jets DB Antonio Cromartie, the final catch, a 26-yard play down the sidelines came against Darrelle Revis. It was the last catch of the night for Bryant, despite five more targets.
Never bench your studs. Yeah, right. Just because you drafted a running back in the first round, don't think you can just set him in the starting lineup and not have to worry about him falling on his face.
Case in point is Week 1 and Baltimore's Ray Rice. If you're in a non-PPR sit him. If you're in a league without a flex position, sit him. And if you're in a PPR league with a flex position, really consider going somewhere else this week if you have better options/matchups.
Ray Rice gets Pittsburgh to open the season — he will also have to face the Steelers and their No. 1 run defense in the NFL and No. 1 in points per game allowed to RBs in fantasy last season at just 12.9 in Week 9. Yes, we love Ray Rice. But maybe we love him too much considering he has to face the Steelers twice this season and the Jets in Week 4 (No. 2 in PPG to RBs at 14). But back to Week 1. In two games against the Steelers last year, Rice ran for 52 yards total, caught three balls for 27 yards total and failed to reach the end zone. In two starts that's 10.9 points in a full PPR league and 7.7 in a standard league — in TWO starts.
In five regular-season games against the Steelers in his career, Rice has a total of 281 yards rushing, nine catches for 108 yards and NO touchdowns. That's 77.8 total yards and 1.8 catches per game. So his career fantasy average vs. the Steelers in a full-PPR league is 9.5 points and 7.7 in non-PPR.
You need look no further than what Chris Johnson, coming off a 2,000-yard rushing season, did in the opener against Pittsburgh last year: 34 yards rushing and five catches for 19 yards — 5.3 in a non-PPR and 10.3 in a full-PPR.
Rice was the ninth-best back in PPG last year at 15.3. Seeing Pittsburgh twice a year, along with the Jets, all before the fantasy postseason, is not a confidence builder for his 2011 prospects if you just assume he is not going to come close to reaching his average in those three games.
No other top-12 back faces Pittsburgh twice, but there are three that face Pittsburgh and the Jets: Rice, Jamaal Charles and Maurice Jones-Drew.
We know Rice's numbers vs. the Steelers. He has played the Jets once (last year's season opener) and went for 43 yards rushing, 19 yards receiving on two catches and no scores. That's 6.2 points in a non-PPR and 8.2 in a full-PPR.
Charles has faced the Steeler and Jets once each — 58 yards rushing, two catches for eight yards and one score against the Steelers in 2009 and 45 yards rushing, one catch for four yards and no scores against the Jets in his rookie season of 2008.
MJD has faced the Steelers three times, rushing for 80 yards and one score and adding 13 catches for 59 yards and no scores. He has faced the Jets twice, rushing for 182 yards and three scores and catching two balls for 22 yards and no scores. Clearly, MJD is the best against these two teams, but now with the release of QB David Garrard and teams knowing it's stack the box time, having success against these two teams in the first six weeks of the season is a tall order.
Here are the top five fantasy defenses against RBs last season, and which RBs have to face them this year.
Pittsburgh — 12.9
New York Jets — 14.0
Green Bay — 15.7
Atlanta & Baltimore — 16
No. 1 Arian Foster — Pittsburgh (Week 4), Baltimore (Week 6), Atlanta (Week 13) No. 2 Adrian Peterson — Green Bay (Week 7), Green Bay (Week 10), Atlanta (Week 12) No. 3 Ray Rice — Pittsburgh (Week 1), N.Y. Jets (Week 4), Pittsburgh (Week 9) No. 4 LeSean McCoy — Atlanta (Week 2), New York Jets (Week 15) No. 5 Jamaal Charles — Pittsburgh (Week 12), New York Jets (Week 14), Green Bay (Week 15) No. 6 Chris Johnson — Baltimore (Week 2), Pittsburgh (Week 5), Atlanta (Week 11) No. 7 Rashard Mendenhall — Baltimore (Week 1), Baltimore (Week 9) No. 8 Maurice Jones-Drew — New York Jets (Week 2), Pittsburgh (Week 6), Baltimore (Week 7), Atlanta (Week 15) No. 9 Darren McFadden — New York Jets (Week 3), Green Bay (Week 14) No. 10 Steven Jackson — Baltimore (Week 3), Green Bay (Week 6), Pittsburgh (Week 16) No. 11 Matt Forte — Atlanta (Week 1), Green Bay (Week 3), Green Bay (Week 16) No. 12 Frank Gore — Baltimore (Week 12), Pittsburgh (Week 15)
Of course you can't run from all of the top-12 backs in fantasy football, but this is just meant to inform you of when to beware. And maybe with eight of the first 12 backs each facing a top-five fantasy run defense at least three times, perhaps their value is not as great as once thought.
Bottom line: Sit em vs. the Steelers and Jets and cross your fingers for the rest.
On to Ask Athlon for Week 1...
Kevin Kolb or Jay Cutler Week 1? — Mike Crowther from Athlon Sports on Facebook
Wow, that's a tough one. Cutler was sacked a league-high 56 times last season, but Kolb's opponent, Carolina, wasn't far behind with 50 sacks allowed. Cutler faces an Atlanta team that allowed the fifth-most points to fantasy WRs last year (30.5 PPG), while Carolina was much better at fifth-best (22.8 PPG). Arizona has Larry Fitzgerald and Todd Heap and a new QB in Kolb and the Cardinals are on the road against a coach In Ron Rivera hired for his defensive mind. The Bears are at home, with more weapons and Cutler in his second year in Mike Martz's offense. It's a close call, but I'd go Cutler.
Julio Jones, Jonathan Stewart or Marshawn Lynch at the flex spot, non-PPR — Chris Kaschok from Athlon Sports on Facebook
All I see when I think of the Falcons, Week 1 and a receiver is Michael Jenkins streaking down the field to catch Matt Ryan's first-ever pro pass for a 62-yard touchdown in 2008. One play and Jenkins had 12.2 points in non-PPR leagues, add a point in PPR. Chicago's Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman are no bums when it comes to covering receivers but the Bears' rush defense was second in the league last season. So expect the Falcons to come out showing off their new weapon in the rookie receiver from Alabama. I feel better about his opportunities to get you the 12 points you want from your flex spot than the other two options.
Stewart ran for 137 yards and no scores against Arizona last season when he was the primary back. But DeAngelo Williams is back, rookie QB Cam Newton can't throw and expect the Cardinals to key on the run. With Stewart playing second fiddle and the Cardinals focused on one thing — stopping the run — hard to expect much from JStew in this one.
Lynch is in Seattle. Enough said. Get the great playoff run he had against the Saints out of your mind. I am not touching a single Seahawk this season until they get a new QB — and that QB is not currently on the roster.
Who do you like more this week. Big Ben at the Ravens or Tony Romo at the Jets? — @AthlonBraden on Twitter (because even Athlon editors need help setting their lineups)
Both teams are in similar situations. The Steelers and Cowboys go up against top-notch run defenses and will probably have to go to the air to have success. I give the edge to Roethlisberger for three reasons: familiarity, health and the other team's defensive backfield.
Roethlisberger has not lost in his last seven tries against his AFC North rivals, and averages 21.6 points per game over the last 12 meetings. The Steelers are healthy, minus Emmanuel Sanders being banged up with his foot injury, although Antonio Brown filled in nicely in the preseason. Jets shutdown corner Darrelle Revis is not on the other side of the field for Big Ben to face.
Romo has only faced the Jets once — 195 yards, two scores and an interception in 2007. Romo does have to face Revis. He does so with a hamstring injury to his No. 1 receiver, Miles Austin, who would be lined up against Revis. His No. 2, Dez Bryant, is unproven with Romo at the helm so far. Add all that with the fact the Cowboys' No. 16 run offense from a year ago, now minus Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode who they released, goes up against the No. 3 ranked rushing defense.
Athlon Sports takes a look at which running backs have touched the ball the most per game over the last three years and over the last two years. This gives you an idea of both which backs have been given the most opportunities, while at the same time lets you know which backs might be wearing down.
It's interesting to note that Arian Foster, having played just one full season, already ranks eighth in touches per game in both charts.
Houston's Arian Foster is giving fantasy footballers everywhere heart palpitations after his Tweeting of an MRI of his right hamstring.
Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew, easily in the conversation with Johnson and Adrian Peterson last year for which back to draft No. 1 overall, is pouting on the satellite airwaves of his own SiriusXM show that he doesn't understand why he has fallen so far on draft boards after issues with his knee all last season. It's because we haven't seen you all preseason, MJD. Hopefully that will change tonight in the final preseason game.
And then there are the Indianapolis Colts. What to do with this backfield? Do they even run enough for us to care as fantasy players? Can Joseph Addai stay healthy? Will Donald Brown ever live up to his first-round selection. Is Javarris James or rookie Delone Carter going to be the goal line back. Where does former Virginia Tech stud Darren Evans fit into the mix?
But back to the Johnson signing. It puts him squarely back into the conversation as one of the top four backs to select in your fantasy football drafts. Or does it?
I still have Foster pegged as No. 1 until we hear anything worse on his hamstring. If it's a tear, I drop him to 14th.
We still have Adrian Peterson ranked No. 2 because, well, because he's Adrian Peterson and he seems to get it done no matter how bad the Vikings are. If he does it again this year, he will be No. 1 forever.
Ray Rice sits at No. 3. And he could easily move to the No. 1 spot in all formats as he is the safest pick.
LeSean McCoy is ranked No. 4 by Athlon as our standard scoring system rewards half a point per reception. Have you watched the preseason? The Eagles' offensive line doesn't look any better, and McCoy is there to reap the rewards in the form of dump-off and check-down passes.
Jamaal Charles sits at No. 5 as the news of Dexter McCluster getting some action in the backfield along with Thomas Jones, Le'Ron McClain, a below-average QB in Matt Cassel and a brutal schedule, leaves people nervous about Charles.
Then there's CJ.
Word is that he will be more involved in the passing game this season, and if we knew that to be true he would be No. 4 in our rankings as a result. But he hasn't been in camp. Johnson hasn't practiced with new offensive coordinator Chris Palmer's playbook; he hasn't played with new QBs Matt Hasslebeck and Jake Locker.
What he also has not done is anything at game speed. And this is where we come full circle from yesterday. Arian Foster and his hamstring dominated the news. Will it get worse? Is it a tweak? Is it a tear? Will Chris Johnson's hamstring be the next to dominate the news cycle?
With veteran players and holdouts, new system or not, we are not as worried about how quickly they can learn, we are more worried about how healthy can they stay. There have been a few high-profile hamstring injuries in recent seasons after holdouts — New York Jets defensive back Darrelle Revis last season and Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant in 2008. Both were able to play the season, but they were injured nonetheless.
This is the biggest worry about CJ right now. He seemingly always trains on his own in Orlando in the offseason, and the numbers that has produced the last three seasons aren't too shabby.
If you are drafting today, tomorrow or even right up until the season kicks off a week from now, Chris Johnson is still a top-six RB pick. And monitor the news over the next week and see if he getting a lot of action in the passing game. Even if it's just a bit, I am moving him over Charles because Johnson has a clear path to all the carries (not too worried about Javon Ringer and Jamie Harper in the long run) and an easier schedule.
Arian Foster - Houston Athlon Top 280 Rank:1 Pros: Foster was the No. 1 fantasy running back last season by a wide margin. Texans own one of the league’s top lines. Great supporting cast. Only running back in NFL last year to average more than 100 yards per game. Cons: Very limited track record. Ben Tate is healthy and could steal a few carries away. Injuries have been a concern throughout Foster’s career.
Adrian Peterson - Minnesota Athlon Top 280 Rank:2 Pros: Arguably the most talented running back in the NFL. Four straight 1,000-yard seasons. Seems to have solved fumble issues. Four seasons of at least 1,600 total yards and 10 scores. Cons: Vikings have Donovan McNabb in his twilight years, could start a rookie quarterback, and offensive line is a question mark. Despite questionable surrounding cast, Peterson remains a solid fantasy pick, but needs help to improve upon last year’s numbers.
Ray Rice - Baltimore Athlon Top 280 Rank:3 Pros: Back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons. Could see more work around the goal line this year. A top option in PPR leagues. Cons: Offensive line a question mark. Ravens added more weapons at receiver, which could reduce receptions. May be difficult to top last year’s 307 carries in 2011.
Chris Johnson - Tennessee Athlon Top 280 Rank:4 Pros: One of the safest picks at running back after three straight 1,000-yard seasons. With uncertainty at quarterback, Johnson should be the focal point of the offense and will see plenty of passes in his direction once again. Cons: Titans, like the Vikings with McNabb, have Matt Hasselbeck in his later years and could start a rookie quarterback later. Has been holding out due to contract. Yards per carry dropped from 5.6 in 2009 to 4.3 last year. Already has a lot of work on a slight frame.
Jamaal Charles - Kansas City Athlon Top 280 Rank:5 Pros: Very little wear on the tires. Increased yards per carry by at least a half a yard each of last three seasons. With Thomas Jones in decline, likely in line for more work around the goal line. Cons: Schedule among the toughest in the NFL. Chiefs could continue to limit his workload to prevent him from breaking down.
LeSean McCoy - Philadelphia Athlon Top 280 Rank:8 Pros: Led all running backs with 78 receptions. Eagles don’t run the ball a ton, but he doesn’t have any competition for carries at running back. Makes what carries he gets count — had a 5.2-yard average in 2010. Cons: May not improve much on rushing yardage totals due to Eagles offense. All of the weapons are back in Philadelphia, which means McCoy’s touchdown totals are also unlikely to increase.
Rashard Mendenhall - Pittsburgh Athlon Top 280 Rank:9 Pros: Entering the prime of his career. Has back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and tied for second in the NFL with 13 rushing scores last year. Has very little competition for touches; should top 300 carries once again. Cons: Although the offensive line is getting better, it remains a concern. Mendenhall won’t be much of a factor in PPR leagues and could lose a few more goal line touches to Isaac Redman.
Maurice Jones-Drew - JacksonvilleAthlon Top 280 Rank:11 Pros: The Jaguars still have a questionable passing attack, which should make Jones-Drew the focal point of the offense. He has back-to-back 1,300-yard seasons and remains a significant contributor in receptions out of the backfield. Cons: Coming off of knee surgery. Touchdown totals were significantly down from 2009 season. Should be focal point of offense, but lack of consistent passing attack is a concern.
Darren McFadden - Oakland Athlon Top 280 Rank:12 Pros: Finally lived up to the hype by earning first 1,000-yard season. Raiders should boast an improved passing attack, which will ease pressure on McFadden. A factor in PPR leagues. Cons: Has never played a full 16-game slate due to injuries. Backfield mates Michael Bush and Taiwan Jones will factor into Oakland’s gameplan each week. Offensive line could be a question mark.
Frank Gore - San FranciscoAthlon Top 280 Rank:13 Pros: Before last season’s injury, was on pace to earn his fifth-straight 1,000-yard season. New head coach Jim Harbaugh was a run-first coach at Stanford and wants the same mentality in San Francisco. Cons: Injury prone — he has played 16 games only once in six seasons. Yards per carry dropped from 4.9 to 4.2 last year. 49ers passing game will be an issue once again.
Athlon Sports has made Houston Texans running back Arian Foster our No. 1 overall player. But it did not come without a healthy debate. Below the case is made for Foster being the consensus No. 1. We also make a case for the other four players who could be your league’s top pick, and there would be nothing wrong with that, either.
Arian Foster for No. 1 — Athlon Rank: No. 1 Overall Arian Foster of the Texans should be the first overall pick in your fantasy draft. He had the most yards, most touchdowns and second-most catches by a running back last season. Foster scored close to 100 fantasy points more (in most formats) than any other running back in 2010. The only argument against him being taken in the top spot seems to be, “Well, he can’t do it again.” Why not? The third-year workhorse is young, his strong offensive line returns, and Houston’s solid passing game will keep opposing defenses from keying on him. It also does not hurt knowing that if Foster puts together another stellar campaign, he should be rewarded with a lucrative contract. Besides his eight 100-plus yard games, he was held below 50 yards in only two contests. The main thing to like about Foster’s game is that he’s a consistent producer across the board. Despite not having blazing speed, he was in the top four in the league last year in 20-plus yard carries. Foster also had a whopping 66 catches, and he receives his team’s goal line carries. Trust in a budding young star in a loaded offense. Trust in Gary Kubiak’s track record of being able to run the ball. And do not hesitate to take Arian Foster if you have the No. 1 pick in your draft.
Number to Know that soldifies Arian Foster as the No. 1 overall pick: 25
Arian Foster, as a running back in format where all TDs count six points, was the third-best scorer in all of fantasy football. He was surrounded by two QBs ahead of him 12 QBs behind him before the No. 2 RB showed up. Even if you took 25 percent of Foster's scoring away from last season, he still would have been better than Peyton Hillis by 5.2 points. It's worth repeating: Even if Foster had not played in four games last season (and he even missed two quarters via coach's benching), he still would have outscored the second-best back by 5.2 points.
Adrian Peterson for No. 1 — Athlon Rank: No. 2 Overall
Having the first pick in 2011 might be more of a curse than a blessing as there are more names with legitimate claims to the No. 1 slot than ever before. So when splitting hairs, it is easy to select the most naturally gifted running back on the planet. Yes, he has quarterback concerns and O-line question marks. However, the offense still runs through No. 28. How many backs can say that their career low in rushing is 1,298 yards? Peterson has also added the receiving aspect to his game in the last two seasons with 79 catches for 777 yards over that span. He had only 40 catches for 393 yards in his first two seasons. All Day is the safest and most dependable back in the draft — and has as much upside as any other player in the league.
Ray Rice for No. 1 — Athlon Rank: No. 3 Overall
The case for Rice hinges on a few distinct factors that separate him from the other names atop the rankings. First, he has arguably the best team around him, with established stars at quarterback, wide receiver and head coach to go with an opportunistic defense that normally gives the offense the ball in good field position. Second, he is a complete tailback in that he is a true threat in the receiving game. His 141 receptions in the last two seasons are far ahead of every other elite tailback on the board. Additionally, his crossover schedule could not be easier, as Baltimore will face the worst division in football in 2011, the NFC West. Finally, his running style and size make him a more durable option. He is low to the ground, powerful and rarely takes direct hits. If he can add a couple more scores to his ledger, Rice could easily finish No. 1.
Chris Johnson for No. 1 — Athlon Rank: No. 4 Overall(pre-holdout)
Chris Johnson should be viewed as the Usain Bolt favorite in this year’s No. 1 fantasy running back foot race. No other back can match CJ’s combo of recent-past production, present-day prime and near-future potential. Johnson’s career thus far has been all about numbers — from his record-breaking 4.24 40 at the 2008 Combine to his record-breaking 2,509 total yards in 2009. Last year, CJ2K became CJ1.36K, but that is missing the point; CJ is a total yards total package. Historically, only LaDainian Tomlinson and Eric Dickerson produced more total yards over their first three seasons than Johnson’s 5,606. The 5’11”, 191-pound playmaker will turn 26 on Sept. 23, and he has never missed a game due to injury (CJ sat out Week 17 for the then-13–2 Titans in ’08). He has his eyes on the prize at every level — finding daylight along the line (read: signing a new contract), juking linebackers (read: securing endorsement deals) and sprinting to the end zone (read: establishing his place in NFL history). Look around and do the math: Johnson is statted-up. CJ’s average game is 119.3 total yards and 0.81 TDs; his average season is 1,868.7 total yards and 12.7 TDs. Johnson is the gold standard for fantasy running backs and it’s not even a close race.
Jamaal Charles for No. 1 — Athlon Rank: No. 5 Overall
With so much uncertainty surrounding the No. 1 overall pick, why not roll the dice on one of the league’s rising stars? Charles finished 2010 No. 3 overall in fantasy scoring among running backs and has plenty of room to grow in terms of carries. With Thomas Jones declining, Charles should easily surpass the 230 carries he posted last season. Jones will still be a factor around the goal line, but Charles is a good bet to increase his five rushing scores. Charles has been the team’s top big-play threat, increasing his yards per carry by at least a half a yard in each of the last three seasons. Also helping Charles’ case is his improving surrounding cast. The addition of Steve Breaston and Jon Baldwin should give quarterback Matt Cassel another weapon in the passing game, which will prevent defenses from focusing too much on stopping the rushing attack. Even though Kansas City’s schedule is more difficult in 2011, and the coaching staff doesn’t want to overwork him, the arrow is pointing up on Charles’ fantasy value.