Maurice Jones-Drew, Cecil Shorts' Updated Fantasy Outlook with Blaine Gabbert

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2013

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 22: Running back Maurice Jones-Drew #32 of the Jacksonville Jaguars celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter of the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on September 22, 2013 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Everybody stop what you're doing—it's Yo Gabba Gabbert time in Jacksonville (sorry).

In a move that shouldn't have come as much of a surprise, head coach Gus Bradley announced Monday that Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert has been cleared to play and will start Week 4 against the Indianapolis Colts.

Gabbert, who fractured his thumb in the preseason, missed the last two weeks after suffering a deep cut to his hand in Jacksonville's 28-2 loss to the Chiefs in Week 1. He needed 15 stitches to repair the cut, which were removed prior to Week 3's game against the Seattle Seahawks. Henne replaced him both in Week 1 and the two subsequent games, both losses.  

Bradley's first season with the Jaguars has been nothing short of a nightmare thus far. Jacksonville has scored just 28 points in its three losses and has gotten nothing short of putrid play from both quarterbacks.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 08:  Blaine Gabbert #11 of the Jacksonville Jaguars attempts a pass during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at EverBank Field on September 8, 2013 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Henne and Gabbert have combined for a 57.4 quarterback rating for the season, a full 51 points worse than what the Jaguars are giving up defensively. 

But you already knew that. The Jaguars are the 53-man oil spill left in Jacksonville to rot, while eager fans take over the franchise to move it in Madden the first chance they get. Even the limited talent this roster does have is getting wasted due to the team's inability to find consistency under center.

The perfect evidence of that comes when judging the fantasy value of Jacksonville's skill-position players. It was known coming into the season that wide receiver Cecil Shorts and running back Maurice Jones-Drew were the only two usable Jaguars, and that Justin Blackmon might be a decent keeper candidate in deep leagues.

The first three weeks of the season have only confirmed that assumption. And, in fact, we may be down to just one Jaguars player worth keeping in your lineup.

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 22:Running back Maurice Jones-Drew #32 of the Jacksonville Jaguars is tackled by defensive tackle Brandon Mebane #92 of the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter of the game at CenturyLink Field on September 22, 2013 in Seattl
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Jones-Drew, the pint-sized unstoppable force who somehow had his best career season during Gabbert's rookie campaign, looks like the weight of carrying an entire offense has taken its toll. The 28-year-old back has rushed for 115 yards on 44 carries this season, "good" for a 2.6 yards-per-carry average.

The fact that he's scored just once—remember, this is Jacksonville we're talking about—isn't a surprise. What's shocking is just how ineffective he's been with the ball. Of running backs who have gotten 50 percent or more of their team's attempts, only Chris Johnson (shocking, I know) has been less elusive thus far than Jones-Drew, per Pro Football Focus. Though not updated through Week 3 yet, Football Outsiders' DVOA had Jones-Drew producing nearly eight percent less than what an average running back would in those situations.

Suffice it to say MJD's 19-carry, 43-yard outing in Week 3 won't be changing much. Now in his eighth NFL season, questions about Jones-Drew's future—not only in Jacksonville, but the NFL in general—are going to get louder.

If you drafted him, circumstance probably forces you to start him. Just don't go expecting a bounce-back season after a 2012 campaign that was lost due to injury. 

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Wide receiver Cecil Shorts III #84 of the Jacksonville Jaguars tries to catch a pass against the Oakland Raiders in the fourth quarter on September 15, 2013 at Coliseum in Oakland, California.  The Raiders won 19-9. (Phot
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

As for Shorts? He'll be just fine as a mid-tier WR2 or even a low-end WR1 in deep PPR leagues going forward. Blackmon will return after his four-game suspension expires in Week 5, but it's fair to assume the rapport Shorts has with both quarterbacks won't be altered.

The 25-year-old wideout has 19 receptions for 276 yards this season; all he's missing is the touchdowns. No receiver in football has more targets than Shorts' 39, which both shows his talent and his quarterbacks' ineptitude at putting the ball in catchable places. (Shorts also has three drops this season, so it's not all Henne's and Gabbert's faults.)

Henne or Gabbert, it doesn't make a difference. Gabbert will continue targeting him on short and intermediate routes, which should make him a strong weekly play in all formats.

Plus, I have a feeling that the Jags are going to be down in one or 13 of their remaining games. Just don't, you know, expect Shorts to score or anything, and you'll be fine.


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