At this point, an investment in Vandelay Industries is probably safer than one in Maurice Jones-Drew. The life of a latex salesman is one of pride, and supreme importance.

All along throughout Maurice Jones-Drew’s holdout whenever Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey has said something about the league’s leading rusher in 2011 not being the starter even if he does report on Day X, his words have been treated as though they’re about as real as oh, I dunno, a creature that secures the freshness of your pizza. Previously we assumed that since the Jags still employed a quarterback who treats the pocket like his own personal black hole, and since their first-round pick Justin Blackmon was late getting to camp too, a parade would be thrown for Jones-Drew upon his arrival, and it would quite literally be the greatest day in franchise history.

Then something odd started to take shape in Jacksonville. For the first time in a long time, good things were happening, and the Jaguars have started to get this crazy and maybe legitimate idea that they can win without MJD. Blaine Gabbert is looking competent (and sometimes even confident), Blackmon reported to camp and has provided the rare combination of size and speed that was expected when he was made a top-five pick, and Rashad Jennings has rushed for 175 yards over three preseason games while averaging 4.9 yards per carry.

So maybe they don’t need Jones-Drew after all, and neither should you.

I’ve written multiple times that with each day that passes without a positive development or progress of any kind, Jones-Drew’s value continues to plummet, and Jennings’ will rise. Today as Jones-Drew’s holdout hits Day 32, his value has crashed to an all-time low, and it might not rebound, or at least not this year. There’s now a very real chance that he’ll miss a game, and once he misses one game and Jennings is still running well, he’ll miss at least several and possibly 10.

Even if by some act of the holy gods above Jones-Drew caves and decides to report tomorrow, due to CBA rules he can’t participate in a full padded practice until Monday. Since the calendar is about to gloriously flip to September and bring us football next Wednesday with the Cowboys-Giants primetime opener and then most teams will play their first game the following Sunday, Jones-Drew would be logging only one full week of practice time under a new head coach, and a new offense.

For Mularkey, that likely won’t be acceptable. Here’s what he told the Florida Times-Union today:

“I expect Rashad [Jennings] will start, we’ll just have to see.”

Translation: I’m saying really nice things because I want Maurice Jones-Drew to like me, but the odds of a running back missing all of training camp and every preseason game and then starting right away with only a week of practice under a new system are bleak at best. Four days ago it wasn’t shocking to see MJD still coming off the board in the middle of the second round in many 10- and 12-team leagues. Now it is since the third game of the preseason has passed, and that’s typically viewed as the dress rehearsal for the regular season.

The time has come to adjust your rankings severely, and take this holdout far more seriously. Had he reported two weeks ago and only missed half of training camp, you could have easily justified still taking Jones-Drew very early, and most likely still in the first round. But now with the days remaining in August dwindling, he’s venturing into Chris Johnson territory. You know, the Titans RB who had only 98 rushing yards on 36 carries over the first three weeks last season following his holdout when he reported just prior to Week 1.

Now it’s becoming increasingly difficult to take Jones-Drew earlier than the fourth round. We’re all aware by now that any running back not named Rice, Foster, or McCoy has his problems, but despite their brittleness or behavioral issues, at least the likes of Darren McFadden, Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles, and DeMarco Murray will play for you, produce, and provide some sort of redeeming value for your investment.

We simply still don’t know if Jones-Drew will play, making the reward for taking a risk on him far too small.