Rotoprofessor’s Fantasy Profile: MJD & S-Jax

Jul 24, 2009

Written by
Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

Maurice Jones Drew

It feels like fantasy owners have been waiting for Maurice Jones-Drew to become an elite fantasy running back for years.  He’s never rushed for over 1,000 yards or carried the ball more than 197 times (which he did last season), thanks to sharing carries with Fred Taylor since being drafted in the second round of 2006 out of UCLA.

Taylor is gone, now calling New England home, and Jones-Drew will finally get an opportunity to be the featured back.  In fact, his potential back-ups rushed the ball for a total of four carries last season and a whopping nine yards.  The only other back that has significant carries is Alvin Pearman, who set his career high with 39 carries back in 2005.  Needless to say, the offense is going to be on Jones-Drew’s shoulders.

At 5′7″ and just over 200 lbs., there is concern that he may not be able to handle the beating a full-time back takes, and those are fair.  He is shorter then Tiki Barber (5′10″), but we all know what Barber proved capable of doing.  Jones-Drew has shown over the past three seasons that he could make an impact, despite not carrying the ball all that often.  You cannot forget to factor in the times he received a pass.

Last season he set a career high with 62 receptions, after amassing 86 over his first two seasons.  Even if he were not to improve on that number with full-time snaps, very few backs supplement tremendous rushing ability with his type of receiving threat out of the backfield.  Only Matt Forte (63) caught more passes, with six other running backs amassing 50+ catches.  Needless to say, it’s a huge advantage.

Jones-Drew will also benefit from one of the strongest offensive lines in the game.  As well as getting back three starters back who missed at least part of last season, the team added Tra Thomas, a Pro Bowl left tackle, as a free agent signing and used their first round pick (#8 overall) on Eugene Monroe.  Adding those two pieces to an already strong line should give Jones-Drew plenty of holes to run through.

Let’s get one thing straight; Jones-Drew is a definite risk (outside of PPR leagues), especially if he’s being selected among the top two players on draft day.  He’s never had the opportunity to be the main back in the NFL so there is no telling how he is going to react.  With a career yards/carry of 4.8 to go along with a great receiving threat out of the backfield and a great line leading the way, this should be his chance to really shine, but you never know.

If asked to project out his season statistics, I would say:

Rushing – 1,275 yards, 13 TD
Receiving – 550 yards, 3 TD

That certainly equals a monster back, doesn’t it?  Still, for me, the risk doesn’t equate to the reward.  I’d much rather take an Adrian Peterson or Michael Turner with those first two picks.

What do you think?  Where would you peg his numbers for 2009?

Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Steven Jackson

It feels like every season Steven Jackson enters with a lot of expectations surrounding him.  Unfortunately, injuries have helped to derail his last two years, limiting him to just 12 games in each.  That still didn’t stop him from exceeding 1,000 yards, now having done so in each of the past four years.

It’s that 2006 season that everyone hopes he can duplicate.  That year he not only rushed for 1,528 yards and 13 TD, but added 90 catches for 806 yards and 3 TD.  Those are enormous numbers, ones that are unlikely to be duplicated under any circumstance, even with him basically consisting of the entire Rams offense.

Ronald Curry (newly acquired), Keenan Burton and Donnie Avery leading the way at the wide receiver position?  New tight end Randy McMichael may be the best receiver on the team, despite having just 11 receptions in four games last season.

Keep that in mind when looking at Jackson who has proven he can be a weapon out of the backfield.  Mark Bulger is going to need to get the ball to someone and with 38+ catches each of the past two seasons there is no reason to think that Jackson is not going to be a frequent target.  Is he going to reach 90 catches again?  Unlikely, but he certainly could get to 50+ if he stays on the field, a definite boost to his value.

That’s just an added bonus, however.  What owners really need to look at is his potential performance on the ground.  This is a team that is going to need to focus on defense and ball control and with new head coach Steve Spagnuolo (the former Giants defensive coordinator) at the helm that is exactly what they are likely to do.

The team added Mike Karney as the fullback, who played the last five seasons with the New Orleans Saints.  He started 46 games while in New Orleans, helping lead the way for Deuce McAllister, Reggie Bush and company and surely will help clear the way for Jackson to break off some big runs.

They also made a major change along the offensive line, having drafted Jason Smith with the #2 pick overall in the 2008 draft.  He replaces Orlando Pace, a perennial Pro Bowler, who leaves big shoes to fill.  While it’s going to be tough, Pace was 33-years old, so getting younger and more athletic could potentially help open some holes for Jackson.

The health is really the major concern.  If he can stay on the field he’s a lock to be a 1,000 yard back, no questions asked, especially when you consider that he’s never had a yards/carry of less than 4.1 (he’s at 4.3 for his career).  Throw in the fact that the rest of the offense is so weak, he could really be leaned upon and shine in the passing game, as well as given ample opportunity to find the end zone.

I would project him out at:

Rushing – 1,300 yards, 12 TD
Receiving – 425 yards, 2 TD

Those are solid numbers, right around a Top 5 or 6 option in all formats.  His talent has never been a question, just his ability to keep himself healthy.  That’s an inherent risk with almost any running back, however.  Knowing that he’s capable of posting numbers like he did in 2006 (however unlikely) certainly makes him worth the gamble in the middle of the first round.

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