Jacksonville Jaguars All-Pro running back Maurice Jones-Drew
Jacksonville Jaguars All-Pro running back Maurice Jones-Drew's prolonged holdout has raised the question of whether or not the NFL's leading rusher in 2011 should be traded. If elite running backs were valued as highly as their counterparts at the quarterback position, the answer would be a resounding yes. But they aren't, so there's no good reason to pull the trigger on a deal.
The St. Louis Rams received a king's ransom from the Washington Redskins for the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. That earned Washington the right to draft Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III.
But, as ESPN's NFL analyst John Clayton pointed out in his most recent mailbag, it's difficult for a team to receive more than a fourth-round pick for a running back, unless his name is Herschel Walker or Ricky Williams.
Jones-Drew is only 27 years old, so he's two or three years away from the age where NFL running backs typically begin to decline. He also doesn't have the overall mileage of a typical lead back entering his seventh season. Jones-Drew accumulated only 530 carries during his first three years while splitting carries with former Jaguars star Fred Taylor.
But he has averaged 318 carries over the past three years for Jacksonville, including a league-leading 343 carries in 2011. That type of workload is sure to limit what even the most running back-starved team is willing to offer for the three-time Pro Bowler.
All that said, Maurice Jones-Drew still has tremendous value for Jacksonville both on the field and in the locker room, so keeping him would reassure the fanbase and other veteran players that the team is headed in the right direction.
His presence takes a lot of pressure off of second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert and rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon to carry the offense. And even in today's pass-happy NFL, Jones-Drew is one of the league's best receivers out of the backfield, averaging more than 43 receptions per year in his first six seasons.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are probably not a playoff team, even with Jones-Drew leading the offense. But he certainly makes them a more formidable team, and gives fans in Jacksonville another reason to watch pro football this season.