Who will be the Top Fantasy RB in Kansas City with Jamaal Charles on IR?


"Editor’s Note: Your latest fantasy update from B&T Fantasy Correspondent, Adam McGill."

With Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles being carted off the field last week with a torn ACL. (Anterior Cruciate Ligament), the Chiefs now have an obvious hole at running back. The team has three backs that can carry the load for the rest of the year in Le’Ron McClain, Dexter McCluster, and Thomas Jones. So who will be the most valued addition to your fantasy squad? Find out after the jump…

McCluster was a slash-type player coming out of Ole Miss, which made Kansas City unsure of how to use the speedster at first. He was able to quickly adjust to the passing game from the backfield and learned the team’s entire playbook in less than a month. In week 3, he managed 45 yards off of 9 carries and caught 5 passes out of the backfield for another 17 yards. McCluster will serve primarily as the team’s change of pace back, as his skill set is strikingly similar to Charles and the team can easily plug him into Charles’ spot without having to change many plays.

He will also line up alongside Thomas Jones in the backfield  several times per game and at times, will kick out to the slot receiver position, a trick the the Chiefs use because of their lack of reliable wideouts. This season, he has already caught  14 balls for 40 yards, but more impressively is averaging 6.6 yards per carry, with 138 rushing yards on only 21 carries.

However, with all the speed that McClusterpossesses, he is still extremely undersized for a starter at a meager 170 pounds (which is lighter than half of the kickers in the NFL). He also has had problems securing the ball and fumbled twice already in the first three games, which can be like Kryptonite to a running back’s job security.

Conversely, Thomas Jones is the most experienced back and the veteran has the best size of anyone other options at the position. The former Pro Bowler (2009) weighs in at 212 pounds, a healthy 42 pounds heavier than McCluster. Size is critical for NFL running backs to be successful because they get hit on every play by someone who weighs more than them. Smaller backs tend to break down through the course of the season. McCluster will be the 3rd down back because of his versatility, but likely won’t get many chances to start.

Jones is without a doubt the goal line back moving forward and his 68 career rushing touchdowns prove that he knows how to get into the end-zone. The only person that could limit Jones’ touches in the red-zone would be McClain, but the fullback will likely serve primarily as a blocker inside the twenties.

Jones is also one of the more polished pass-blocking backs in the game and his thick frame helps him stop linebackers at the line of scrimmage. Pass-blocking is an overlooked part of a back’s job, because if he can’t pass block, he’s limited to 1st and 2nd down and likely won’t see the field nearly that much. Jones will likely be called upon to block often, as the O-line has struggled to protect Matt Cassel, which makes him more valuable to the Chiefs and will result in more carries per game for the 33-year old.

From the macro standpoint, however, the Chiefs have been nothing short of embarrassing offensively, averaging less than 10 points a game through three contests. The loss of Charles will only complicate matters more, making Kansas City, along with Seattle, a team to for pretty much all purposes in fantasy football, as help is not on the way and they won’t be putting up big offensive numbers at all this year, even against the league’s bottom-dwelling defenses. Jones remains the back with the most value in touchdown-heavy leagues, but in leagues that are yardage-heavy or PPR (Point Per Reception), McCluster is the more intriguing option. Jones will have more overall fantasy value from week-to-week in 2011 and is still available in roughly 30% of ESPN leagues, making him a decent grab for anyone who needs TD’s. McCluster has more long-term value in dynasty leagues, especially those that count return yardage.

– Adam McGill