Maurice Jones-Drew hates you. He’s never met you, but he hates you. If you own a Wookie, he’ll squish it. If you get in a fight with a bear, he’ll pour honey on you.
These are not known facts, and are instead assumptions based on his current behavior. Jones-Drew is an obsessed fantasy player who hosts a fantasy radio show on Sirius/XM, and long before his holdout began he took himself first overall in an early draft. So surely his priorities are aligned correctly, and he wouldn’t jeopardize his own fantasy season, right?
Dammit, MJD. You were one of the four sure things at an absurdly unstable position. Now you’re becoming one of them, the concerning names who are enticing for many reasons, but alarming for many more.
Yep, we had a good thing going here, Maurice. Along with Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, and Ray Rice, you were set to remain as one of the elite, and most reliable running backs. And you may still achieve that status as you haunt us with a very real threat to extend your holdout well into the regular season, and then this morning tease with a potentially renewed desire to mend a relationship with the Jaguars’ front office that’s been nuked.
Eventually as we progress closer to kickoff night on Sept. 5 — the day when fantasy draft season ends — this muddied picture will become far more clear, and so will MJD’s direction. Jones-Drew will either cave and stop throwing feces at Shad Khan (unlikely), he’ll be traded (unlikely), or he’ll sit out until Week 10 when he can still earn credit for an accrued season (somewhat likely…gulp).
The problem, of course, lies in the fact that time isn’t our friend. Frankly, I’m not sure time has ever been my friend, as it’s mostly an asshole that makes me late for work, and doesn’t provide the desired length of evening couch-sitting before responsibilities in life consume me. Right now, though, time is an especially awful jerk.
I’ll use my situation as an example, because many of you are surely facing a similar problem. As we sit here on the afternoon of Wednesday, Aug. 22 with Jones-Drew and Khan still yelling across a pulverized bridge, I have three drafts in less than a week. Two of them are next Monday, and one is on Tuesday. I don’t know my draft position yet in any of those leagues (all of which are 12-team snake draft leagues), but hypothetically, let’s say that I’m picking at the very end of the first round at 11th or 12th overall.
Typically, Jones-Drew would be long in the draft’s rear-view mirror by that point, but not now. He could be in an ESPN league, where he’s coming off the board at about ninth overall, but in NFL.com leagues he’ll likely be available for those picking late in the first round or early in the second. His ADP there is 14.07, but what matters far more for our discussion is that with each day that passes with no new developments, both of those ADPs will plummet. Before long, Jones-Drew will be available in the third round, and you’ll still hesitate.
There are two very simple options, and neither one is appealing right now given the lingering uncertainty.
1. Pass, and let him become another owner’s migraine
That’s about the equivalent of folding pocket aces, because even with his time off and the potential that he could do his best Chris Johnson impression after missing all of training camp and every Jaguars preseason game, the value on Jones-Drew either late in the first round or early in the second round is incredible. You’re well aware of his 2011 numbers by now, including his league-leading 1,606 rushing yards that put him 242 yards ahead of the next guy (Ray Rice).
But if he sits out one game, he’ll sit out 10. Khan has repeatedly said that he’s not paying him, and he’s kindly suggested that Jones-Drew should find a train, and hop on it. Meanwhile, Jones-Drew wants to get paid, and thinks he deserves market value for his services. Those two rigid stances mean it’s nearly certain that MJD won’t make an appearance until Week 11, when he can still log enough time to earn an accrued season.
Sure, you could hold on and still use him for the fantasy playoffs, but if the anchor of your backfield is absent for over half the season, post-season glory seems pretty unlikely.
2. Take the plunge, but invest in another RB quickly
The ideal scenario for this mammoth risk would be that the highest pick you’re using on Maurice Jones-Drew is an early second rounder. Again, if your dice roll pays off and he’s playing in Week 1, that’s amazing value.
But you need a safety net, and it should be Rashad Jennings, Jones-Drew’s backup and the Jaguars’ current starting RB. His value will rise as Jones-Drew’s falls, but if you’re drafting right now, Jennings is still available late. Like stupid late, and is being selected 149th overall in NFL.com leagues. So you can wait, and wait, and while you’re doing that maybe pick up another RB with moderate risk and a high upside in the middle rounds like Reggie Bush or Doug Martin. Then secure Jennings by reaching for him early in about the 11th round.
We’re living in stressful times, but if Jones-Drew continues to fall (and he will), I’m leaning towards option No. 2. With his 118 rushing yards on 23 attempts (5.1 per carry average), Jennings is showing that he’ll be a fine replacement. But taking him far earlier than his ADP indicates can feel much more like a plunge into jagged rocks than a mere reach.