A Forgettable 2012 Season
Maurice Jones-Drew's 2012 season was easily his most forgettable from a statistical standpoint. First, he held out for 38 days, and did not report to the Jaguars until September 3. That negatively impacted his effectiveness at the onset of the year, as he only played in six contests before a foot issue (Lisfranc) prematurely ended his season. He only managed 414 yards on 86 attempts, which was easily the lowest output of his career. It also snapped a streak of three years with at least 1,324 yards, including a career best of 1,606 that he attained in 2011. And the 500 total yards that he manufactured were well below the 1,795 that he averaged from 2009-2011.
Questions Remain In 2013
It would ease concerns if Jones-Drew was currently in excellent condition, and ready to resume the consumption of mammoth yardage totals that occurred before last year's disappointing developments. But in fact, he was out of shape for the recent OTAs, and will also miss the Jaguars’ mini-camp. All due to the often lengthy rehabilitation process that is involved with his particular type of foot injury. He is also dealing with allegations that he hit a security officer on May 26, which was part of an altercation that he was involved with that night. These are not exactly the offseason results that fantasy owners would prefer as they make draft day preparations.
Career At A Crossroads
If Jones-Drew is healthy throughout the regular season, then he should deliver far better numbers this year. Although even then, it is reasonable to question whether or not he can return to a spot among the elite. It will be difficult for him to run for 1,300+ yards as he did his most productive seasons (2009-2011). Because those totals were generated as he carried the ball 954 times during that span. It is highly possible that his workload will be far less extensive, similar to the initial three years of his career. At that time, he averaged 177 attempts per season while sharing touches with Fred Taylor. Again, it is largely dependent upon how extensively he is impacted by the foot issue. The words “significant” and prolonged recovery” are used frequently when Lisfranc injuries are discussed by medical personnel, and that should create unease for fantasy owners.
The Jaguar Offense Has Other Playmakers
There is some additional talent on the Jaguar offense, as two young wideouts emerged after MJD was sidelined last season. The big play ability of Cecil Shorts will force opponents to account for him, and that should help open up lanes for MJD. As should the presence of Justin Blackmon on the opposite side of the field from Shorts. However, Blackmon must serve a four game suspension before he can line up for Jacksonville, and then must avoid any further issues. Once he does return, the talented WR tandem could be underutilized because of shortcomings at the QB position. Blaine Gabbert has essentially proven that he is not a legitimate NFL starter. And even though Chad Henne did enhance the passing attack in 2012 by successfully executing more deep throws, he is hardly a consistent answer at the position. Continued struggles by Gabbert and Henne will create massive challenges for the offensive unit as it attempts to sustain drives. Which of course will adversely affect MJD’s ability to collect yardage.
Limited Competition For Carries
Providing that he does regain complete health, MJD owners should not be overly concerned about internal competition for touches, as his current backup is Justin
Forsett. The former Colt, Seahawk, and Texan has never garnered more than
118 carries in any if his six seasons, and has averaged 277 yards per year during
his career. While Beanie Wells did visit with the Jaguars, no deal has been completed, and the continual health issues that Wells possesses make any future deal unlikely. The team might opt to bring in additional RBs, as the only other backs on the roster beyond MJD and Forsett are rookies Denard Robinson and De’Leon Eskridge, along with the inexperienced Jordan Todman and Jonathan Grimes.
Reasons For Concern As The Season Approaches
MJD will be just 28 this season, has proven that he can bolt for significant yardage when healthy, and should be the primary ball carrier on his team. However, much has occurred since his last highly productive season, and he is hardly a lock to garner a massive workload. There are certainly questions regarding his health, the deficiencies within the offense that he will perform in, and the fact that off field issues have surfaced in the past two years. But the largest factor that should impact his performance this season will be the degree to which he can recover from the Lisfranc surgery. Which is certainly not the easiest injury to bounce back from. It is essential that his status be monitored throughout the summer. If and when he is able to run without limitation, then it will be easier to produce a precise draft plan for MJD.
Intangibles That Should Boost His Production
If he is able to perform four times against the defensive units of divisional rivals Tennessee and Indianapolis, that should help his rushing total immensely. The Titans and Colts finished 24th and 29th respectively versus the run last season, and his encounters with both teams should boost his overall numbers sizably. Particularly when he faces Indianapolis, as he has ravaged the Colts for 1,389 yards on 258 attempts during his career, while generating over 100 yards per game. MJD’s prowess as a receiver also bodes well for his chances of having a productive season. He has already accumulated 292 receptions in his career, and prior to his condensed 2012 season, had averaged 46 catches for 412 yards from 2006-2011.
Where You Should Draft Him
At this point, it will be risky to select him as your RB1 unless you see evidence that he can indeed handle the demands of performing as a feature back. And that will be virtually impossible to determine until training camp at the earliest. Even if he does alleviate concerns by running effectively at that time, it is far more reasonable to draft him for your RB2. Because it will be difficult for Jones-Drew to accumulate 1,300 yards again this season, unless he captures at least 300 carries. And that simply appears to be far more than we should expect at this time. But if he is able to line up as the primary back when the Jaguars open their regular season against Kansas City, he should attain 1,000 yards, and could easily surpass 1,100. Once again, much depends upon his progress as the upcoming weeks unfold. As of now, you should plan on drafting him no later than the beginning of Round 3, because he will not remain available beyond that point in your draft process.