By Zack Cimini
As evidenced from the last three to four years fantasy football running back rankings have scattered all over the place. Players just are not as predictable in that position as between the years of 96 and 2003. Teams have retooled and better prepared to have depth to keep their star running backs fresh and durable. Supplanting some of these prior studs with double digit touchdowns has become the norm. Coaches were forced to necessitate less of a load on their number one running back and divide that load up with the second string back. It has made it a nightmare from year to year of what to expect from a back that teetered on solid success the season before.
When the Jaguars parted ways with veteran back Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew shot up the charts for the 2009 season. Rightfully so, as he has been a beast since entering the NFL in the 2006 season. At his size the Jaguars questioned if he could handle a full time starring role. At 5’7 and a little over 200 pounds he is a back of rare combination and comprises the tools to be a threat for years to come. Based upon how he has done thus far in 2009 he seems to be secure for years to come as a fantasy Tomlinson. Meaning he could be destined to rack up double digit touchdowns and dual threat receiving and rushing yardage.
Here at Notjustagame though we have extreme cause for concern and caution for Jones-Drew’s future to hold up.
For Jones-Drew’s size and what he does on the field who does he compare to of the last five to six years in his position? We would compare him to a Brian Westbrook type. Westbrook has a few more inches on Jones-Drew but they are almost identical weight. So we would say that’s a fair assessment. Similar to Jones-Drew, Westbrook had a veteran back to break up duties most of his career in Duce Staley and then Correll Buckhalter. Westbrooks injury woes have been throughout his career but they didn’t start to climb until recently. See Westbrook was always hurt but he usually only missed a few games while battling through and playing hurt on the field. That ends up catching up with you.
In MJD’s season long segmented show on the NFL Network he has detailed how rough and hard it is for his body to recover. That’s just the life of an NFL running back, but he knows his body and is ready to go every Sunday. A body can only take so much and Drew will be exiting his fourth complete season as an NFL back. The wear and tear is definitely there and the Jaguars have failed to protect their future investment.
Jones-Drew is second in the league in carries at 278. His previous three seasons he only averaged 176 carries, with last year being his highest total at 197. With two games left he will easily break the 300 mark and be somewhere around 310. This does not disclude the fact that Jones-Drew also has 49 catches on the year. That ranks him fifth for running backs in catches and he is 44th in the league for that statistic. Saying that the Jaguars may be overworking and possibly burning out their star back is an understatement.
There isn’t a team in the league besides maybe a St. Louis that doesn’t break up the load a bit with their star back. Can you name the Jaguars primary backup running back? Think, think…is it on the tip of your tongue? We don’t think so. The seldom used running backs name is Rashard Jennings. He is averaging a whopping two carries a game.
Ask Atlanta how overworking their star back in 2008 and not using a backup running back worked out for them a year later. We just do not see it as a wise move to increase a backs carries by nearly 50 percent. It may not be next year the Jones-Drew starts to break down but it will happen sooner than later if the Jaguars do not make it a point to lessen his work load.