What’s Next for Minnesota and Kansas City?
A few years ago, if I had told you that Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson would find themselves unemployed on the same day that probably would’ve ended our conversation pretty abruptly. Charles was a top 10 back in 2014 and Peterson was #2 in 2015. Yet, we find ourselves in that very situation as both were given their walking papers at the end of February.
I’m not going to try to project where the veteran RBs might end up as discussed by the Ballers last week in the Free Agency Preview podcast. Instead, I want to take a look at the situations they leave behind and evaluate what the fantasy values are for the Minnesota and Kansas City backfields in 2017. Due to injuries and off-field issues, we’ve actually got a pretty good snapshot of what to expect from both teams.
While it almost seems like blasphemy to mention a Vikings backfield without AP, it’s really not that out of the norm as of late. Peterson has only played in 20 of Minnesota’s last 48 games. He missed 15 games in 2014 due to injuries and legal woes and another 13 last season. He proved that he could still run in 2015 with almost 1500 yards and 11 TDs but the Vikings saw fit to cut the soon-to-be 32-year-old RB. With Matt Asiata also due to hit free agency, Jerick McKinnon looks set to inherit the Minnesota backfield in 2017. The hype around McKinnon has been in full force since his insane workouts coming out of college. However, his production has never quite matched. In his 3 years as a pro, his stat line is quite mediocre:
|Year||Rush Yards||Receptions||Rec. Yards||Total TDs|
Not quite what you want out the RB slated to replace a future Hall of Famer. He did still finish as the RB32 last year despite getting 15+ carries in only 5 games. His receiving skills out of the backfield have improved every year and I think he is ready to take a big step forward in 2017. My expectation is that he sees his workload increase to about 225 carries. When you factor in his career 4.5 YPC and his receiving numbers, you get a stat line that looks like this:
|2017 Projection||Attempts||Rush Yards||Receptions||Rec. Yards||Total TDs|
That line is very similar to what Frank Gore did last year, and while I don’t love that comparison, Gore was the RB12 overall in 2016. McKinnon has a legit chance to finish the year as RB1 and he is currently being drafted in the 13th round as the 53rd RB off the board. Those numbers will rise as the AP news breaks but he is a flat out steal right now. I do expect Minnesota to bring back Asiata or draft a running back (or possibly both) but I’ve factored that into my projection. McKinnon will be 25 years old when the season starts and in the final year of his rookie contract, it’s time for him to live up to the hype.
Kansas City Chiefs
If the release of Peterson was almost unsurprising, then the release of Jamaal Charles was a total shock. Yes, Charles’ injury history is what opened the door to this move as he has only played in 8 games over the last 2 seasons. However, when healthy, he is one of the best in the game. The release of Charles opens the door wide for 5th year RB Spencer Ware. Ware got the first significant playing time of his career while Charles was hurt last year and he did not disappoint. In only 14 games. he rushed for 922 yards and 3 TDs. He added 33 receptions for almost 450 yards and 2 more TDs thru the air. Even with only 5 total TDs, Ware finished as a top 15 RB. The long story short here: if Ware can catch on to the TD production that Kansas City normally sees out its RBs, he will be a potential top 10 back in 2017.
In the 3 years Andy Reid was head coach leading up to last season (2013-15), the Chiefs averaged 18 rushing TDs and 7 receiving TDs by RBs. Last year, those numbers dipped to 15 and 4 respectively. That means there is potential for Ware to add 6 more TDs to his totals which would put him in last year’s top 10. Like McKinnon, as the news travels about Jamaal Charles, Ware’s ADP will rise, but he is currently going in the 4th round as the #19 RB off the board. The Chiefs will hold onto Charcandrick West as a backup and brought in CJ Spiller to assist on passing downs but I think 2016 proved Ware is the man moving forward and I believe we will see an increase in his workload. He is a top 10 RB that can be had for relatively cheap as of right now.
With the NFL Draft still about 2 months away, it will be interesting to see how these teams replace the veterans they let walk. You need to stay on top of that news, be sure to Pre-Order your Ultimate Draft Kit and get your exclusive shows over JoinTheFoot.com!