Fantasy football owners will face many tough decisions on draft day, with injuries, holdouts and position battles all coming into play. All the players that have held out have reported to their team or are expected to soon (Mike Wallace), with the one exception at this point being Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew. As anyone who follows the NFL closely knows, Jones-Drew is holding out as he seeks a new contract despite the fact there are two years left on his current deal. The team has taken a stance against giving him a new deal, so trade rumors have surfaced this week. To this point nothing has come to fruition on the trade front, but it still can’t be totally ruled out.
So how should fantasy owners treat Jones-Drew in their drafts and auctions? For now, I will work under the assumption he reports to the Jaguars fairly soon and plays the entire season with the team.
There’s no denying Jones-Drew’s track record in terms of production, and he led the league in rushing yards (1,606) last season despite the Jacksonville passing game posing virtually no threat to opposing defenses. He also led the league in carries with 343, and added 43 receptions for 374 yards and three touchdowns to further bolster his fantasy production. He has at least 1,300 rushing yards in each of the last three seasons since becoming the Jaguars’ primary tailback, and has never had less than 34 catches in any of his six NFL seasons as well.
The concern, justifiably so, with Jones-Drew lies predominantly in his age (27) and workload (954 carries from 2009-2011), so he is a risk for breaking down and suffering a drop-off in production at any point over the next couple seasons. This current holdout throws another wrench into things for any fantasy owner considering drafting him, as the risk for injury and lackluster production goes up with missed practice and game time prior to Week 1.
The Jaguars may have a better passing offense this season, with the offseason additions they have made (Laurent Robinson, Justin Blackmon) and second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert has looked solid this preseason. Still, Jones-Drew should remain the centerpiece of the Jacksonville offense as long he is with the team and remains healthy.
Jones-Drew is certainly falling down draft boards right now with the uncertainty of his situation, and rightfully so. That said, I feel like he could become a draft day value if he falls too far. He has to realize he has little leverage in terms of wanting a new contract right now, so the smart move would be to report soon and get ready to have another productive season.
It will certainly take a gutsy fantasy owner to consider drafting Jones-Drew, let alone using a high draft pick or a significant amout of auction money on him. But depending on how the rest of your roster takes shape on draft day, bringing him aboard could be a nice calculated risk if the price is right.