Fantasy Football Sleeper Alert: Rashad Jennings

Chris DiLeoCorrespondent IMay 11, 2009

JACKSONVILLE, FL - MAY 1:  Running back Rashad Jennings #23 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs upfield during a team mini-camp on May 1, 2009 on the practice fields at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Rashad Jennings in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft. 

It has been speculated that Jennings fell down the draft board because he played for Liberty, which competes in the Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division 1-AA). 

It's no surprise that a player from a small school who was drafted in the last round of the draft would be an afterthought for fantasy football purposes.

Further, consider that Jennings was drafted by the Jaguars—a team already boasting Maurice Jones-Drew. Fantasy players have been waiting years for the chance to see what MJD could accomplish if given a full-time role on the offense.

Now that former Jacksonville running back Fred Taylor has moved on to New England, the door is open for MJD to take over, and it has fantasy players drooling with excitement.

The above factors will divert attention away from Jennings. He is primed to be a top sleeper pick in fantasy football, as well as possibly the best value pick in this year’s draft.

Jennings has very good size at 6’2” and 235 pounds. He runs a 4.52 forty and has all the necessary skills to contribute right away for the Jaguars.

Chris Steuber of gives an excellent idea of what to expect:

 “ Jennings is a physical runner who’s tough to handle in the open field. He has great size and strength and possesses outstanding vision. He’s a North-South runner who runs low to the ground and has good balance. He’s deceptively quick and has surprising elusiveness. He has great hands out of the backfield and is dangerous in space. He keeps his legs moving and fights for extra yards”.

What is not mentioned is that Jennings is also a willing and capable blocker. Blocking ability is a very important attribute—one that rookie running backs need to have in order to see playing time. Willingness to block is often overlooked by fantasy owners deciding on which rookies to draft.

Jennings also has little competition for the No. 2 running back position. The depth chart lists three names: Alvin Pearman, Greg Jones, and Chauncey Washington.

Pearman has been active for only 17 games in the past three years and got only 23 touches during that span.

Jones has been used in short-yardage situations in the past, but his role appears to be at fullback in 2009.

Washington was a seventh-round pick in 2008, but he was active only six games and accounted for a measly 18 total yards of offense.

As for Jennings' small-college stigma, it is noteworthy that he played his freshman year at Pittsburgh. While playing for the Panthers, Jennings’ 411 yards rushing was second on the team. 

He transferred to Liberty solely because he wanted to be closer to his father, who had fallen ill.

Jennings also put on a superb showing at the Senior Bowl—he was the leading rusher in that game. This provides a good indication that he is just as capable as running backs coming from bigger colleges.

Finally, he has a tremendous work ethic—a trait shared by all of my sleeper picks. Jennings was team captain all three years at Liberty, and he had a reputation for working very hard and always trying to improve upon his skills.

I believe Jennings may only be considered as a handcuff to Jones-Drew in the upcoming fantasy season. If that is the case, he would likely fall well past round 10 in most drafts. 

Jennings will surely be an amazing value pick in that scenario. His size, running power, deceptive speed, great hands, and willingness as a blocker will almost certainly earn him a lot more playing time than most observers are expecting from him.

He is definitely a player worth monitoring, and should be targeted by anyone looking for a fantasy steal in 2009.