Spotlight: Maurice Jones-Drew

posted by on Jul 27th


's thoughts

After three seasons in a job share with Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew assumed full control as the lead running back in Jacksonville last year and never looked back. He silenced critics and doubters alike who felt he was too small and too fragile to handle the rigors of an every down back. With Taylor shown the door, Jones-Drew's carries went from south of 200 to north of 300, resulting in a year-end ranking as the number three fantasy running back in 2009.

Jones-Drew previously had been successful even with limited touches, twice ranking in the Top Ten fantasy backs and ranking 13th in his other season. But there were some questions as to whether someone 5'8" could remain healthy and vibrant over a full season, especially given Jones-Drew's bowling ball style approach to hitting the hole. He turned out to be the Little Engine That Could, amassing 365 touches, 1,765 yards from scrimmage, and 16 total TD last year.

With the Jaguars offense being somewhat offensively challenged, Jones-Drew was one of four players in 2009 to generate twice as many yards from scrimmage than anyone else on his team (Mike Simms-Walker had 869 yfs). The others were Steven Jackson (1,738 vs. Donnie Avery 619), Jamaal Charles (1,417 vs. Chris Chambers 608), and Chris Johnson, who had an astounding triple the yards of any of his teammates (2,509 vs. Kenny Britt 701).

Even with a reduced workload for three seasons, since entering the NFL in 2006, here are Jones-Drew's rankings in key categories for running backs and how he's stacked up against his peers:

  • 2nd in fantasy points scored (895)
  • 2nd in total touchdowns scored (54)
  • 2nd in games played with 300+ carries (63)
  • 2nd in rushing touchdowns scored (49)
  • 3rd in total touchdowns per game (0.86)
  • 5th in receptions (201)
  • 5th in yards from scrimmage (5,706)
  • 8th in fantasy points per game (14.2)
  • 8th in touches (1,043)
  • 9th in rushing yards (3,924)
  • 12th in rushing attempts (842)
  • 13th in yards from scrimmage per game (90.57)
  • 15th in yards per carry with 300+ carries (4.66)
  • 26th in touches per game (16.56)

It's that last one that makes Jones-Drew's performance all that more remarkable. He's been able to produce at the level he has seeing the ball less frequently than other backs. Add in the fact that he's only 25 years old, and one can see why fantasy footballers have been salivating for Jones-Drew to get a chance to be an every down back the past few years. Last year, he did nothing to disappoint them.

Jones-Drew has become the consummate threat to score from anywhere on the field and a player defensive coordinators must scheme for and account for at all times. He set a career best in rushing yards against the Titans last year, rambling for 177 yards and two touchdowns. As if that wouldn't be impressive enough on its own, Jones-Drew accomplished that feat on a mere EIGHT carries.

The Jaguars offensive line has been plagued with injuries the past few seasons, and with better health to the OL and better offensive line play, Jones-Drew could be in for a monster season.

Positives

  • Jones-Drew suits up each week. He's only had one DNP to go along with 63 games played over his four year career. And his lone absence was in the final week to rest up for the playoffs in 2007.
  • He ranks 14th all-time among RBs in fantasy points scored through four seasons played and 6th all-time through age 24.
  • For those in PPR leagues, Jones-Drew becomes an even more attractive fantasy option, as he should haul in another 50+ receptions again this year.

Negatives

  • The Jaguars don't really have many other consistent threats offensively besides Jones-Drew. Defenses can load up men in the box and key on him to slow him down.
  • If the Jaguars fall behind early, he may not be the first option in the offense and Jacksonville would likely turn to the air to move the football.
  • He probably can't dunk a basketball, but other than that finding negatives that pertain to pro football are tough to come by.

Final thoughts

There's not a lot not to like about Maurice Jones-Drew (other than the three names and the hyphen). He's the go-to guy on the Jaguars offense and does not appear to have any competitors to eat away at his workload. Jones-Drew accounted for 365 RB touches in 2009 vs. 66 for other Jags running backs. He's one of the few remaining three down backs and accounted for 85% of the running back workload in 2009. Expect another banner year from Jones-Drew, who scarily is just hitting his prime. If the Jaguars can muster or summon up some offense this season, he could see even more scoring opportunities.


Quotations from the message board thread

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

Iwannabeacowboybaby! said:

He's a true workhorse for the Jags. He can run for yardage, touchdowns and can get you receptions, an exceptinal talent. Last season he finally was strictly the feature back and he did what people thought he could do and that is become a fantasy STUD. How often he runs and how hard he works, one has to eventually worry about this guy wearing down but I don't see it coming this season.

Creed Bratton said:

I think MJD has the highest floor of any running back in the league. The fact that he can get his points in so many different ways makes him a great week to week producer, especially in PPR. I think the offense should improve and if he can get better run blocking up front, then watch out. I think there is some moderate upside if some of the younger receivers and tackles improve their play. If I had any doubts about Chris Johnson, then this is who I would take.

Jayrod said:

Only thing that could stop him from producing top 5 RB numbers is injury. Great back in a good situation for stats.

Some slight tweaks on last year's numbers, but not much change expected.

295 carries, 1325 yds rush, 13 rush TD's, 55 rec, 415 yds rec, 2 rec TD's, 2 fumbles lost

Could reach 2,000 total yards and 20 TD's if the team plays well, but I don't know that they have improved that much from last season.


Maurice Jones-Drew projections

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