Jamaal Charles, one of the league’s best all-around running backs over the last decade, has a new team for the first time in his career. Charles signed with the Denver Broncos on Tuesday, inking a one-year deal worth up to $3.75 million.
It’s a late signing for Charles, who was released from the Chiefs in March. Charles has spent all eight of his NFL seasons in Kansas City, where he’s eclipsed 1,000 yards five times since being drafted before the 2008 season.
But that’s over. Injuries have cut Charles down each of the last two seasons, and now it’s time for a fresh start in Denver. The Broncos don’t have a ton of experience at running back, and Charles will join a depth chart occupied by C.J. Anderson, DeVontae Booker, and sixth-round pick De’Angelo Henderson.
After losing Peyton Manning, the Broncos were expected to lean on the ground game in 2016. That didn’t happen, as the Broncos averaged 92.8 yards per game last season. That’s good for 27th-best in the NFL, and one of the reasons the Broncos limped to the finish line at 9-7. The Broncos lost four of their final six games to finish outside the playoff hunt, and had less than 70 yards rushing in three of those late losses.
With Charles starting over, it’s all about staying healthy. He has the tools to thrive in Denver’s system, but needs to stay on the field to be productive. He’ll likely win the starting job in training camp, as Anderson and Booker both struggled to reliably produce last season.
In his career, Charles has scored seven touchdowns in 13 games against the Broncos. His former AFC West rivals always did a decent job keeping him in check, as Charles only averaged 75.9 and went 3-10 against Denver.
From a fantasy perspective, Charles is the definition of high-risk high-reward. His name alone will command a much higher pick than other veteran running backs, but it’s not hard to see this ending as a bust. That makes his season totals impossible to predict, as any injury will derail his numbers. He’ll definitely get banged up, but he’ll appear in enough games to make an impact on any roster. Just be prepared to deal with a “questionable” status every week for the entire season.
For the record, the Broncos visit the Chiefs on Monday Night Football on October 30th.
Prediction: 9 games played, 700 total yards, 7 total TD