Red Zone

Chiefs mailbag: Forget MVP, is Jamaal Charles a future Hall of Famer?

Updated: 2013-12-20T20:18:14Z

By TEREZ A. PAYLOR

The Kansas City Star

As you might imagine, Jamaal Charles was the talk of the locker room ― and hell, the whole league ― after his five-touchdown performance in the Chiefs' 56-31 win over the Raiders on Sunday.

One-by-one, teammates were asked about their fleet-footed running back, and one after another, they all heaped enormous amount of praise on him. And while anyone who has ever been in an NFL locker room will tell you that it's hardly usual for football players to speak gushing, over-the-top (and borderline amusing) platitudes about a teammate — all you have to do is watch NFL Network's excellent top 100 series for proof — something about this felt ... different. While other players say this stuff, as I wrote for Thursday's Star, I think the Chiefs actually mean it.

But are his stats and the overwhelming respect of his teammates really enough to make him an MVP candidate in a year where Peyton Manning has practically been a cyborg? It's a good question, one of several Charles-related questions I fielded in my impromptu postgame Twitter Q&A on Sunday night.

I covered this in my postgame blitz, but I'll repeat it here: While Peyton Manning should be considered a lock to win the MVP, Charles deserves consideration. The offense was middling at best earlier in the season, and it was Charles ― who was hobbled, mind you ― who carried the unit and helped it do just enough to pull out victories. And recently, as the defense has fallen off some, Charles has actually stepped up his play, showing his trademark burst and somehow improving as the season has gone on.

He's also on the cusp of a pretty special statistical season, as he's only three receiving touchdowns short of becoming the first player in NFL history to rush for 10 touchdowns and catch 10 more in the same season. That's a pretty eye-popping stat, and the fact Charles could approach it tells me a scenario where Charles loses out on the MVP but wins AFC Offensive Player of the Year or NFL Offensive Player of the Year isn't out of the question.

I'd need something that's fast (but maybe not necessarily the fastest) with superior handling. I'd also need a car that's much more durable than you might expect. I'm not a car guy, but when you say sports car, the first thing I think of is a Ferrari or a Lamborghini.

Good question. Right now, Charles has rushed for 5,717 yards on 1,030 carries, an average of 5.6 yards per carry. That's the highest in NFL history, even higher than this guy's^. That's a pretty good sign. But he's six years into his career, and because of his age (he turns 27 in a week) and his frame (5 feet 11 and 199 pounds), he could have still have a hard time accumulating the numbers to get in.

^My Detroit peeps will skewer me for this, but I think Jim Brown is the greatest running back of all-time. No back was more dominant during his respective era than Jim. Not Barry Sanders, not Walter Payton and certainly not Emmitt Smith..No one. Brown was a 6-foot-2, 230-pound hombre with sprinter speed in a time where linemen were roughly 250 pounds. In today’s NFL, that’s the equivalent of a 6-foot-4, 290-pound guy going College Reggie Bush on people. Not to go all Morgan Freeman on you, but no, I don’t believe we’ll see that any time soon.

Let's run the numbers. Most running backs typically last only 10-12 seasons, due to the pounding they take. So, just for argument’s sake^, let's take Charles' first six seasons and say he magically matches that production over the next six years. That will give him 11,434 rushing yards and 3,874 receiving yards for a total of 15,308 yards from scrimmage for his career. Even if you gave him an additional 300 yards from scrimmage (to adjust for the fact he's not quite done with this season yet), that still puts him in a class with other modern backs like Edgerrin James (15,610), Tiki Barber (15,632), Warrick Dunn (15,306), Jerome Bettis (15,111) and Ricky Watters (14,891), none of whom are in the Hall of Fame.

^Translation: we’re going to ignore the fact he nearly missed all of 2011 with an injury and ignore the fact he barely played as a rookie for the sake of having some numbers to work off of.

The good news is this quick study is far from scientific. It doesn't account for several factors, like how well he will age or the increased number of receiving yards he will continue to see as long as Andy Reid is his coach. He could also make the Hall of Fame by continuing on his current pace and, say, delivering some very memorable moments in the playoffs or Super Bowl, etc. All that stuff helps.

Plus, let’s assume he matches (and slightly exceeds) The LaDanian Tomlinson Career Curve and actually posts his last elite season at 29 years old instead of 28. That means he could rack up roughly 6,300 yards from scrimmage over the next three seasons, putting him at about 14,000 yards entering the 2017 season.

That’s probably asking a lot, considering he’ll have to be completely healthy of the next three seasons to do that, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. At age 30, he would conceivably be within striking distance ofTony Dorsett (16,293) and Thurman Thomas (16,532), two modern backs who made the hall that are on the lower end of the yards-from-scrimmage spectrum. It is conceivable Charles can find a way to squeak past those guys once he hits his 30s? Sure. But remember, running backs decline sharply in this league. For every Frank Gore, there are probably a couple of Steven Jacksons.

Can always count on a funny question from my man Tully. No, do u c it as a problem?

No chance. I like Knile's potential, but yeah, if you told me he led the 2013 Chiefs in rushing in a game, I would have guessed Charles got hurt, and that would have probably meant a loss.

Be sure to check the blog later for Part 2, which I'll try to post this weekend.

To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to tpaylor@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/TerezPaylor.

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