What would Maurice Jones-Drew have to say if he knew that somebody dropped him in my fantasy football league? “Yeah, he’s going to be the third-down back, so I picked up DeAngelo Williams. You can have him.” Maurice, are you reading this?
No, no, no, no, no! His third-down back status will not last long. To think otherwise is insane (unless you’re in my fantasy league, then it is perfectly acceptable).
I sort of get it. You don’t want somebody who's only going to get some of the carries, some of the time. But Jones-Drew, a three-time Pro Bowler and the reigning rushing champion, will get more carries and more touches than your average third-down back, with the potential to become the starter once again down the road.
Jones-Drew has been a top running back in this league over the past few years. As I pointed out in my article about his holdout, Chris Johnson is the only running back to rush for more yards than MJD in the last three years.
Jones-Drew is coming into a brand new offense, held out from camp and only returned one week prior to kickoff weekend. Still, he is still a top running back in the league, and last year, he was the clear starter on his team, despite questions about his health.
The big fear is that he won’t be in playing shape, won’t be caught up to speed and won’t be game ready. Don’t tell that to his teammate for the past six years, center Brad Meester (per John Oehser of Jaguars.com). “He’s been working his tail off," Meester said. "Knowing him, knowing the type of guy he is, I don’t think he was sitting home. He was working hard. He’s in great shape. He’s ready to go.”
According to ESPN’s AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky, Jones-Drew has spent at least part of his holdout in South Florida, working out with former teammate Fred Taylor.
Taylor, who turned 30 before Jones-Drew’s rookie season, started ahead of Jones-Drew for three years. In those years Taylor ran for 1,146 yards, 1,202 yards and 556 yards (the last season was cut short due to injury).
Taylor knows what it means to be in shape. He knows what it means to be in football shape. At an age where running backs slow down, he had touchdown runs of 76 and 80 yards (twice).
In the three years Jones-Drew spent with Taylor, Jones-Drew ran for an average of 5.7, 4.6 and 4.2 yards per carry. He, too, had multiple long touchdown runs (74, 57 and 46 yards) and scored 13, 9 and 12 rushing touchdowns respectively in the three seasons.
For now, anyways, he is back in that role. For now, he is playing behind a running back in Rashad Jennings, who was drafted to play behind him. At the age of 27, he returns to where he was at the age of 21, except behind another running back.
For his part, Jennings has played exceptionally well in Jones-Drew’s absence. He is doing exactly what he was drafted to do—carry the load when Jones-Drew is out. For him to hold back Jones-Drew, he will have to keep up the pace. Any signs of slowing down, even a little, even on one drive, even on one play, and Mularkey can and will substitute him.
That’s the plan going into Week 1 against Minnesota. “He’ll get some reps to give Rashad a blow,” Mularkey said, per Jaguars.com. Even if Jones-Drew has this designation of third-down back, Mularkey almost alludes to Jones-Drew playing more. As the season progresses, he will.
For his entire life, Maurice Jones-Drew has played football with a chip on his shoulder, trying to prove that stature doesn’t mean anything. Now, people are saying that Jones-Drew will not be productive enough to roster on their fantasy football team. So, Maurice, it looks like you can add another chip on your shoulder this season.