What Should You Do With MJD?

Will Maurice Jones-Drew continue to be a bust?

As a firm believer that any player can be valuable depending on where he's drafted, there weren't too many players on my 'do not draft' list coming in to 2013. Maurice Jones-Drew was one of them. We, at numberFire, even warned that MJD may kill your fantasy team. Amongst my concerns were:

1. He's 28 with tread on his tires.
2. He's coming off a major foot injury.
3. His weight admittedly ballooned to over 230 pounds in the off-season, up from his previous playing weight of 208.
4. The Jaguars planned on switching from a power blocking scheme to a zone blocking one.
5. The Jaguars aren't very good.

Since Jones-Drew has only averaged 5.6 standard fantasy points per game so far, let's revisit these preseason concerns with an eye towards what you should do with him going forward.

Things Ain't the Way They Used to be

I was largely concerned with Jones-Drew's health and prior workload impacting his production. Looking at the table below, we can see that he has been steadily declining in both net expected points (NEP) per rush, and in success rate. NEP/Rush shows how many expected points a runner is gaining or losing for his team every time he carries the ball. A positive NEP/rush is outstanding, and -0.05 is about the average among relevant runners. Success rate is simply a percentage of how many rushes added positive net expected points to the team, with the average being around 41 percent.

Maurice Jones-Drew's Career NEP/Rush & Success Rate

YearTotal TouchesRush NEP/RushSuccess Rate

As you can see, Jones-Drew's effectiveness has bottomed out this season. He also ranks near the bottom of the league in yards after contact and broken tackles, and his longest run of the year has been 10 yards. He's been dealing with a sprained ankle, but at his age there's no guarantee he'll be fully healthy at any point this year.

The Jaguars Couldn't Beat a Drum With a Drumstick - That Can't Help!

With MJD's decline in effectiveness, his main fantasy asset is volume. He's the Jaguars only marquee player and their best bet in the red zone. However, the Jaguars have gotten so bad over the past two seasons that they've had to abandon the run. Take a look at 2011, when MJD led the NFL in rushing, compared to his two most recent seasons:

Jaguars W-L Record, Run:Pass Ratio & MJD's Production

YearJac W-LJac Run:PassJac NEP/PlayJones-Drew Standard Fantasy Points/G

*Jones-Drew missed the last 10 games of 2012.

The Jaguars have gone from bad to worse over the past three years (strongly correlating with the arrival of quarterback Blaine Gabbert, duh), which has resulted in less rushing attempts and touchdown opportunities for MJD. The Jaguars are averaging -0.23 net expected points per play so far in 2013, by far the worst in the NFL. NEP often strongly correlates with fantasy points, so when a team's offense performs this badly, it is very difficult for anyone on the team to consistently put up solid fantasy production.

The Jaguars offensive line hasn't been helping. They rank 31st in adjusted line yards, which measures a team's run-blocking independent of running back production. There's been talk that they are already abandoning the zone blocking scheme, but the jury is out on whether that will have any impact on Jones-Drew's production.

There are some instances when MJD is still a true stud, however. Check out how MJD does in Jaguar wins:

Maurice Jones-Drew 2011-13GTouches/GYds Scrim/GTD/GStandard Fantasy Points/G
In Wins628.8140.01.1721.0
In Losses2018.790.20.3511.1

Jones-Drew nearly doubles his fantasy output when the Jags win. Their first four opponents this year have a combined record of 13-3, an 81 percent winning percentage. It gets a bit easier going forward, as the Jaguars' remaining 12 opponents currently have a combined record of 29-19, a winning percentage of 60 percent. This is why we still have MJD projected to be a lower-end RB2 for the rest of the season.

MJD's Value Going Forward

Jones-Drew will most likely end up in the low-end RB2 range when the season is all said and done. However, because age and injuries have sapped some of his physical talent, he's an extremely risky weekly play. His inconsistency makes him more of a dice-roll flex than a solid RB2, and he's no longer a must-start. If you have other RB2 possibilities along with MJD, I would play it based on matchup.

Trading Jones-Drew right now is also risky. His value is low, and despite his lack of production thus far, it's hard to get equal value for a feature back. If possible, I'd wait until he has another good game and hope I can trade him to an owner who believes his value is closer to his 2011 production. I'd buy low on Jones-Drew more for depth purposes, rather than as the answer to a starting running back problem.

With regard to daily fantasy, I wouldn't even think about starting Jones-Drew unless his opponent is poor enough that the Jaguars have at least some chance of winning. There's just too much risk of the Jaguars falling behind and Jones-Drew having another 13-carry, 23-yard game like he had last Sunday against the Colts.