Running Back - Texas
Combine Height: 5-11
Combine Weight: 200
Combine 40 Time: 4.38
Rushed for 1,619 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior, and amassed 3,867 yards from scrimmage and 39 touchdowns in his three years at Texas.
Charles hopes to capitalize on a big junior year, his first at Texas as the lone feature back; it doesn’t hurt that the NFL loves speed and Jamaal has plenty of that commodity. In addition to great wheels, Charles also has the patience, vision, and cutting ability to excel in a one-cut-and-go zone blocking scheme. He can get to the corner and leave defenders in his wake once he turns his shoulders upfield—skills you might expect from a former track star.
The downside to Charles is two-fold. First, he measured a bit smaller at the Combine than his listed height in the UT program, and his frame doesn’t lend itself well to pounding between the tackles at the NFL level. He’s also known for being somewhat careless with the football, a trait that would only be magnified by trying to run inside on Sundays. You can’t hit what you can’t catch, though, and in the right system Charles could blossom into an NFL—and fantasy—star.
Charles falls squarely into the second tier of running backs, with a very good possibility he’ll go off the board on Day One (which, you may recall, is now just the first two rounds). The Bears or Lions could be candidates if they don’t scratch their running-back itch in round one, though he’d have to be a complementary back in either team’s power running game. The Texans would dearly love to keep Charles in-state… if only their second-round selection didn’t belong to the Falcons. He could fall to Houston in Round Three, but that’s hardly a certainty.
In a best-case scenario for Charles, he would slide into the third round and be snapped up by the Texans—who had upgraded their offensive line in round one. In a zone-blocking scheme helmed by new line coach Alex Gibb, and with only injuries-waiting-to-happen Ahman Green and Chris Brown ahead of him on the depth chart, Jamaal would be set up for a stellar rookie campaign.
Clearly, Charles needs to end up in a zone blocking system or as the “Mr. Outside” complement to a team’s existing inside runner. There are situations where he could walk into significant carries as a rookie, but the durability and ball protection questions make him a risk. Dynasty leaguers could look at the upside of a couple Michael Bennett seasons (think 1,296 rushing yards and five touchdowns in 2002 with the Vikings)… but that’s one productive season out of seven—and five touchdowns is hardly fantasy friendly. In other words, there is certainly upside to Charles but it should come as a bonus rather than as the foundation to which you’ve pinned your fantasy title aspirations.