The 2016 Kansas City Chiefs offense was a cheap ice cream sundae. The kind that chain restaurants give away for free to small children on their birthdays. There was enough colorful and exciting toppings piled on top to cover for the bland, off-brand vanilla ice cream that is Alex Smith. Toppings that were distracting enough that it almost fooled you into thinking that it belonged in the playoffs amongst the best desserts on the menu.
The offense that had a slightly more traditional look early on seemed to transition into a much more gimmicky, much more effective approach as the year went on. It was a product of necessity as they went into their Week 5 bye coming off of an incredibly embarrassing 43-14 loss to the Steelers in primetime.
In this article, I’ll take you through a film study that I conducted myself on the lead running back for Kansas City Chiefs last season. I thought that I would Tarantino this thing and give you my overall feeling on Spencer Ware as a fantasy RB.
See where Andy, Mike, and Jason have Spencer Ware and other RBs ranked for 2017.
What’s On Tape
What I saw in Spencer Ware across the seven games that I sampled was an effective early-down specialist, who is also dynamic enough to be left in on passing plays as both a solid blocker and pass-catcher. I watched him consistently take handoffs up the middle and force his way through stacked boxes and heavy traffic for the 1-3 yards that the Chiefs needed for a first down. These are the types of plays that aren’t rewarded on the stat sheet under YPC (yards per carry), but leave an organization feeling like they have a true asset at the position. My intention going in was to see if I saw enough in him to draw a hard line and take a stance on whether or not he will be able to stave off Kareem Hunt, who many are already hailing as his replacement for 2017.
As I mentioned above, the Chiefs offense struggled to get much of anything going in their first four games going into their bye week. One big reason for that was turnovers. They turned the ball over 7 times in the first 4 games. One of the “chief” offenders was Spencer Ware who fumbled in 3 straight games, Weeks 2-4. I went back and looked at these games and found that two of those fumbles were pretty inexcusable. He simply didn’t protect the ball properly upon impact from a defender and coughed it up. Here is the 3rd fumble:
Hmm, that must be the wrong video. That was clearly a touchdown.
Here it is again:
He loses control of the ball as he stretches out to the pylon. The referees ruled that this constituted a fumble into the end zone, the result of which is a touchback. A split second later and it’s a TD, a second sooner and Chiefs move up to the goal line for another try on 2nd down. It was a tough break that the coach didn’t seem to hold against him as he was back in on the next drive. Ware is not a habitual fumbler. He had 0 in his first two years in the NFL and only 3 over his three years in college combined.
The coaches seem to like Spencer Ware and as I watched his tape it wasn’t hard to see why. He has a lot of versatility that most 5’10 230 lbs “power backs” don’t bring to the table. He’s an excellent pass catcher and blocker when protecting Alex Smith in the pocket. Here’s a clip of him running a route:
He also does things like this.
That’s 6’1, 235 lbs, 2-time pro-bowl linebacker Thomas Davis he just took out. If any team in the NFL knows that you can blow a QB up after he takes off running, it’s the Carolina Panthers. Ware was supposed to be the check-down option, but as Smith takes off running, he has the presence of mind to come back and take a good angle in the open field to protect his QB. It’s the sort of thing that earns you a pat on the back in the film room.
I mentioned earlier that he’s an excellent short yardage specialist. Here are a few looks at him in action:
I’ll grant you that this was against the hapless 2016 Jets, but this was Week 3 before they had completely thrown in the towel. Also, take note of Tyreek Hill streaking across the field on a sweep. This was before Hill had really broken out and something that I noticed became much more effective at misdirecting DBs later in the season, as they began to respect him for the threat that he was. Hill really was the cherry on top for this offense.
Ware showed patience and good vision on a number of runs as well:
The fact that he only had 3 rushing TD’s on the season despite playing 14 games is an anomaly in my opinion. The question is, can he keep the job for the majority of 2017?
Projecting for 2017
This was supposed to be the part of the article where I take a hard stance on whether or not I think Spencer Ware can hold off Kareem Hunt. Unfortunately, all the tape showed me is that he’s at least good enough to make it a battle. Anyone writing it off as a foregone conclusion, citing “Spencer Ware is not good” as their reason, probably hasn’t watched him very much. They definitely haven’t watched Kareem Hunt’s pro-tape since it doesn’t exist yet.
Spencer Ware does everything well, but nothing great. A master of none, if you will. If we were looking at his “Madden” attributes, I would expect him to have about a 70/100 in every category from top to bottom. I really can’t point to any major holes in his game. Kareem Hunt was highly productive in college playing in the Mid-American conference. This is the same conference that Corey Davis gets flack for playing in. Granted the transitional learning curve isn’t as steep for the RB position, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. I won’t make the statement that he can’t win the job outright, just that based on what I’ve seen, he will have to be above what I consider a slightly above average RB in the NFL right out of the gate.
Charcandrick West, by the way, is dead to me. He is the cold gummy bears topping on this sundae, with the consistency of a bicycle tire: unnecessary and hard to chew.