Fantasy Football Sleepers 2011: Jacksonville Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew
Everyone knows that Maurice Jones-Drew is one of the best running backs in the league, but he doesn't get as much fantasy love as Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Arian Foster or even Jamaal Charles.
Is he being sold short?
In 2010, Jones-Drew put up 1,324 rushing yards and 317 receiving yards with five touchdowns.
That's good enough for fifth in the league in rushing. However, that's nowhere near good enough for the first few picks in fantasy selection.
Everyone is shying away from Jones-Drew because of his knee injury, but if you look at the other top running backs from last season, you'll see that he's not the only one who comes with risks.
The 2010 rushing leader was Arian Foster, who came out of nowhere as an undrafted free agent and put up 1,616 rushing yards.
It didn't hurt that he has one of the better passing attacks in the league to take pressure off of him and that he had the league's best fullback (Vonta Leach) blocking for him.
Why not pick him this year?
The same reason you never pick last year's leader. He won't lead again.
Arian Foster is now on everyone's radar screen and will see a lot more teams line up with the mentality of stopping him.
Furthermore, he no longer has his superstar fullback blocking for him, one of the key pieces to his great year. Foster is a great pick, and maybe a good first overall pick, but don't expect him to have a year like last year.
Where would you draft Maurice Jones-Drew?
Not only was he the second-leading rusher in 2010, he also had a phenomenal 6.4 yards per carry. Seems like a great option.
Well, with Charles there are problems, too.
The Chiefs lost their best offensive lineman in Brian Waters and have changed offensive coordinators.
Furthermore, the Chiefs first-round draft pick was receiver Jonathan Baldwin, so I expect Charles won't get that many touches.
There's also the fact that Todd Haley just doesn't like to give Charles a lot of touches. As long as he's in Kansas City, expect running to be the secondary option.
OK, what about Michael Turner? He had way more touches than Jones-Drew last year, but don't expect that to be the case this year.
Atlanta just added receiver Julio Jones into the mix, so I expect an aging Turner to have under 300 touches for the season.
Then there's Chris Johnson.
Never discount CJ2K, but he had an off year last year, mostly because of lackluster blocking. The Titans have since re-signed every one of those lackluster blockers.
There's also the fact that he is holding out right now. I'd stay away from Johnson just for that.
Then there's the good ole standby, Adrian Peterson.
He had fewer yards than Jones-Drew but led him in fantasy points by a large margin.
However, he has two new quarterbacks: one an aging vet who underperformed last year, and the other a rookie whose selection in the first round was a big reach.
The Vikings also lost one of their best receivers in Sidney Rice.
Against the brutal NFC North defensive lines, Peterson will have a lot of trouble. He'll also line up against eight guys in the box pretty regularly with his team's weak pass attack.
Don't count on him to be your guy.
So, where does that leave Jones-Drew?
Well, he had a good year in 2010 despite playing the entire year on a knee injury. He also had very few touchdowns, but I expect that since the Jaguars have no superstar wide receivers, Jones-Drew will be their guy in the red zone this year.
Expect Jones-Drew to put up more than 1,600 total yards and more than 10 touchdowns if he's healthy.
Jones-Drew is being ranked pretty low right now on fantasy draft boards because of the knee issue.
I expect him to drop way further than he should, and he could be the steal of your draft.
There are, of course, risks with Jones-Drew, but as I've demonstrated, there are risks with every running back.
If your fantasy league hasn't drafted yet, then I'd advise you to take Jones-Drew earlier than draft boards suggest. I wouldn't hesitate to snag him up at the bottom of the first.
If you're already a Jones-Drew owner, then be happy.
He'll outperform expectations this year, and could nab you way more fantasy points than you think.
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