Fantasy Football 2013: Can Maurice Jones-Drew Become a Top Running Back Again?

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Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew had what can best be described as a lost season in 2012. A preseason holdout as he angled for a new contract yielded a slow start and a left foot injury early in Week 7 against the Oakland Raiders caused him to miss the final 10 games of the season.

Fantasy football owners that took a risk drafting Jones-Drew were certainly left frustrated, since his injury was repeatedly classified as a foot sprain but was later found to be a more severe Lisfranc fracture. He did not undergo surgery until late December, a little over two months after the injury, which seems to have wasted potential recovery time while the team tried to maintain the idea he might return at some point.

Jones-Drew has reportedly started light jogging as he works his way back from his foot surgery, and expects to be back at full speed in late May or early June. His status for Jacksonville’s offseason program is at best unknown right now, but he should be ready to go for training camp regardless.

Jones-Drew has vowed to play out the final year of his contract, scheduled to pay him $4.95 million, in 2013. But can he become a top-tier fantasy running back again?

The Jaguars have a new coaching regime in place, with Gus Bradley taking over as head coach and more importantly for the offensive side of the ball Jedd Fisch being hired as offensive coordinator. Fisch worked under Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan with the Denver Broncos for one season, and he is expected to install the zone-blocking scheme that the Broncos made famous. Jones-Drew has never played in such an offensive scheme, so it’s unclear how he will be affected by the switch.

Jones-Drew should get all the opportunities he can handle as the centerpiece of Jacksonville’s offense next season, and solid production should follow as long as he is healthy. He led the NFL in carries (343) and rushing yards (1,606) in 2011, and from 2009-2011 averaged 318 carries and 1,440 rushing yards per season with 28 total touchdowns on the ground. Jones-Drew also had two seasons (2009 and 2011) with more than 40 catches over that span, which further cemented his status as a top fantasy running back.

A couple of concerns heading into 2013, beyond his recovery from major foot surgery, are Jones-Drew’s age (28) and career workload (1,570 carries). Based on those factors alone I don’t expect him to reach his 2011 production ever again, but something along the lines of 2010 (299 carries for 1,324 yards and five touchdowns; 34 receptions for 317 yards and two touchdowns) is not out of the question next season. That would make him a solid, if not high-end, RB2 in most fantasy formats.

Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.


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