You’re aware by now that Maurice Jones-Drew finally ended his holdout Sunday morning after coming to the realization that he had no leverage whatsoever. The fact that it took him 38 days to reach that euphoric moment could be very, very bad for you.
Or it could mean nothing at all.
There’s no definitive, statistical way to answer or quantify the question posed by our friendly headline, because each body and mind will react differently to a lengthy absence. Any responsible athlete will maintain his conditioning regardless of his personal circumstances, and Jones-Drew has undoubtedly done that, along with every other player who’s held out before him.
The concern lies in the missed playbook absorbing time during training camp practices, if that’s applicable. It was last year with Chris Johnson, and it is again this year with MJD.
The only true forecast we can use for Jones-Drew is recent history.
As always, the risk and worry is directly tied to the price at which you obtained Jones-Drew in your draft. On the main fantasy sites and draft platforms, Mojo’s ADP didn’t drop far below the third round in a 10-team standard league. However, my personal experience is that during the height of the concern over his contract bickering, there were two polarizing stances on the Jaguars RB, with owners both embracing and flatly avoiding risk. I was involved in drafts where he came off the board early in the second round, and clearly at that point the intention was to strap the handcuffs to Rashad Jennings. In other drafts, he fell as low as the fifth round, where the risk is nearly non-existent.
Although that risk may be minimized by the price you paid, it doesn’t go away, especially with Jones-Drew not in attendance during training camp or throughout the spring mini camps for the installation of a new offense under new head coach Mike Mularkey and offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski.
So, let’s take a quick time travel back through the recent running back woe and delight following holdouts.
Chris Johnson, 2011: This wound is fresh. Too fresh, but despite his tumble to become CJ1k last year with just 1,047 rushing yards when he was only two years removed from finishing with 2,509 yards from scrimmage to set a new single-season record, Johnson is still being consistently drafted in the first round this year. That speaks to the scarcity at the top of the position, because although we know his talent didn’t just evaporate and the lockout didn’t help, Johnson still had five games with less than 30 rushing yards last year after he finally reported to the Titans a week before their opening game, similar to Jones-Drew. Prior to 2011, he only had two games over three years with less than 30 yards.
Larry Johnson, 2007: The blame here can perhaps be placed more squarely on the absurd 752 carries over the previous two years that Johnson received, but his 25-day holdout in August of 2007 served to compound that problem. The Chiefs unstrapped his diapers and he had long since been weaned off of baby food, but a $43.2 million contract ($19 million of which was guaranteed) couldn’t keep him healthy or motivated. Johnson only appeared in eight games in 2007, and he rushed for just 1,433 yards over his remaining two years with the Chiefs, after a career-high 1,789 in 2006.
Steven Jackson, 2008: Jackson missed 27 days of the Rams camp in 2008, and he now represents the median in recent post-holdout production. His numbers didn’t come close to the monstrous 2,334 all-purpose yards he had two years earlier (1,528 of which were on the ground), but instead his totals were only slightly lower than what’s now his normal, expected yearly production. He had 1,042 rushing yards, 379 receiving yards, and eight total touchdowns, and since 2008 Jackson’s averaged 1,211 rushing yards per year with 354 receiving yards, and six touchdowns.
A Johnson imitation from Jones-Drew seems unlikely, simply because he’s infinitely more talented than Johnson ever was. However, MJD has faced similar pounding after carrying the ball 954 times over the past three years. So even though he’s only missed three games in six seasons, the mileage is quickly starting to mount. The threat of a slow assimilation to a new offense — the same derailment that Chris Johnson went through — lingers too.
With those two nightmarish factors in mind, I guess this is the part when I make a bold prediction that will soon be mocked. I’ll lean more closely to the Jackson example in which the RB in question dips just slightly below his career averages. Since becoming Jacksonville’s featured back in 2009, Jones-Drew has averaged 1,440 rushing yards per year along with 355 receiving yards, and 11 touchdowns.
He’ll play very sparingly this week, but beyond that Jones-Drew will promptly reclaim his starting spot. So knock the rushing yards down by about 150, and take away 50 passing yards and three touchdowns, and you have Maurice Jones-Drew circa 2012.
That’s still 1,600 all-purpose yards, which is sort of alright.