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Spotlight: Maurice Jones-Drew

posted by Chris Smith on Aug 6th


Chris Smith's thoughts

Maurice Jones-Drew has been an elite fantasy running back for years now. In fact, since 2006, he has the 2nd highest total fantasy points at the running back position, behind only LaDainian Tomlinson. Check out these career statistics during that span:

  • 1,139 carries
  • 4.6 yards per carry
  • 5,242 rushing yards
  • 235 receptions
  • 2,102 receiving yards
  • 60 total touchdowns
  • Worst fantasy season (13th spot in 2010)
  • Best fantasy season (3rd best in 2009)

Those are some very impressive numbers and when you consider he shared time at the beginning of his career with Fred Taylor, it is even more so.

Jones-Drew is blessed with a stunning combination of quickness and power. He isn't a big running back but his legs are like tree trunks and he has the ability to cut on a dime, slide around a defender or power through them, making him especially difficult to bring down. Defenders often look foolish against him one on one in the open field as he can shift quicker than the defender can react.

If asked to draw comparisons with a former running back, Barry Sanders definitely leaps to mind. Both are 5'8" powerhouses that cause nightmares for opposing defenses. Sanders had a little more explosiveness ultimately but these two players are closer in talent and output than many realize. The biggest difference between the two is that Sanders was the star attraction right out of the gate for the Lions while Jones-Drew had to share time to begin his career. Both had 60 touchdowns in their first five seasons, Sanders averaged 0.1 more yards per carry and Jones-Drew caught almost 100 more passes. Sanders had almost 1,550 more rushing yards in those five seasons but had a significantly higher number of carries. When it comes down to the brass tacks, the similarities between these two guys are pretty uncanny.

Will Jones-Drew return to Top Five status in 2011?

  • Health in question after offseason knee surgery: One of the bigger caveats in regards to Jones-Drew is the knee surgery he underwent this year in January. He has been limited thus far in training camp and does not appear to be 100% healthy.
  • Body beginning to wear down: He has taken some big hits in his first five years and has had a staggering 698 touches in two years. At only 5'8", he may ultimately hit his wall a couple of years ahead of other types of running backs.
  • The only thing that kept him out of the top-five last season was touchdowns: When you look at his stats from last year, everything was in place for another top-five season. He had 1,324 rushing yards and 34 receptions (his lowest total as a pro). It was the disappointing 7 total touchdowns that plummeted him down to the 13th spot among RBs.
  • Possible workload reduction in 2011: There has been some talk of Jones-Drew sharing the field this year with Rashad Jennings this year, a big strong power back. However Jones-Drew is still going to get the bulk of the touches and some relief in some situations may help him increase his value in fantasy leagues.

Positives

  • Tremendous blend of speed, quickness and toughness
  • Excellent receiving ability
  • Remarkably consistent throughout his five years in the NFL

Negatives

  • Coming off of a knee injury and limited in camp
  • Talk of a decreased work load in 2011
  • Has 698 touches in two years which is tough to do three years running

Final thoughts

Maurice Jones-Drew is a beast. Sure he is undersized but he is tenacious, runs with attitude and can break an ankle with his lateral movement. The team may take away some of his touches this year to keep him fresh but ultimately that may help his fantasy value by keeping him fresh throughout the season. The only true worry here is that his knee isn't 100% and never really gets to that point throughout the season. He has put his health around 85% so far through the early part of training camp which is encouraging but still not where it needs to be. Our Footballguys' experts currently have him ranked anywhere from 2nd through 15th at the running back position so you can safely slot him somewhere in there and be in good shape. He has nice upside though if his knee is healthy.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Husker Bru said:

A lot of wear and tear on MJD, and the Jaguars now know that they have a high-quality backup in Jennings, so it doesn't make sense to give MJD the same sort of workload he's been shouldering for the past two years.

Grahamburn said:

MJD had a nice run of monster games (7 straight with at least 100 rushing, 120+ total yards) late last season before being shut down for the last two games. He still managed 1,641 total yards and 7 TDs on one knee. Jones-Drew is young at 26, and has only had one 300+ carry season in his career in 2009 (granted 299 last year), but other than that he hasn't accumulated too many touches. I do think the Jaguars will lighten his workload a bit with Jennings, but this guy is still a great player. MJD's risk is being overstated.

munchkin said:

MJD's overall yardage numbers for 2010(1641)look similar to his previous year(1765)but his TD's dropped from 16 to 7. In most fantasy scoring system that equates to 54 points. Jacksonville game summaries seemed to indicate that MJD was frequently stopped near the goal line. Red Zone inside runs require that extra strength to push through the bodies stacked along the LOS. This is where the weakened knee would have its greatest impact. He may not have had the overall opportunities to score that he had the previous two seasons but he certainly didn't take advantage of the situations in which he did.

MJD is still the man with the killer instinct and drive to succeed. Jennings will likely be given opportunities to spell Jones-Drew on occasion but this is still MJD's team. We should look for another solid season out of this Jacksonville running back.


Maurice Jones-Drew projections

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Chris Smith26511709453802
Message board consensus28212229413572