nF Hypothetical Land: What if MJD actually didn't play?
So maybe the Maurice Jones-Drew holdout isn't just a passing fancy. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter via Rotoworld, the MJD holdout has a real possibility of lasting into the regular season. The Jaguars don't seem to be backing down from their stance at the very least, seeing as how Head Coach Mike Mularkey has already named Rashad Jennings as the "likely starter" for Jacksonville's week one game against the Minnesota Vikings. From MJD's standpoint, he doesn't have much to lose: he's 27 years old, likely looking for his final big payday, and the Jaguars don't have much offense without him (already numberFire's #31 ranked offense even with him). It's like a game of Risk where two players' biggest armies are in a stalemate, only the territory they're fighting for is Madagascar with the rest of the world being overrun by the Bill Belichicks and Tom Coughlins of the game. It may be insignificant from an overall league standpoint, but that doesn't keep us from wondering. If MJD did sit out the whole season, how would that effect both fantasy football and the real-life NFL?
Rashad Jennings' Fantasy Value
Rashad Jennings hasn't gotten too much of a chance so far through three NFL seasons, but a big reason for that is the severely sprained knee he suffered in the preseason last year. As a result, MJD had to have 343 carries last season, an absolutely brutal workload that probably encouraged his desire to be paid now before his body breaks down. Jennings has only started three games in his career, all while MJD was out with an injury in 2010. That year, Jennings finished with his career-high 459 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs, and 223 receiving yards. While the numbers won't wow you, the advanced stats will: Jennings was one of the most effective backs in football that year, finishing with a +0.13 NEP per play rating, meaning that each time he rushed the ball, the Jaguars gained an average of 0.13 points when compared to the average NFL team. In addition, Jennings successfully increased his team's chance of scoring on 38.1% of his rushes - a number that looks even better when you realize that the only two players with significant carries above 40% that season were Jamaal Charles and Shonn Greene.
With such a small sample size, it's tough to accurately project how Jennings's numbers would turn out if given Maurice Jones-Drew's carries this season. But that doesn't stop us from trying. His efficient running may change if given a full workload and planned against more, but over a full season, Jennings would still project to be the best player in the Jacksonville offense by a long shot. We would project him to have 239.0 rushing attempts and 1,011.7 yards on those attempts, an average of over four yards per carry. While that's slightly down from MJD's projected 1,256.5 rushing yards if he played the entire season, Jennings's yardage total is excellent for a backup. In addition, numberFire projects Jennings somewhere around 6.3 rushing touchdowns, 32.8 receptions, 265.4 receiving yards, and 1.1 receiving touchdowns. That's around the numbers we project for Frank Gore this season, who we project as the #13 RB in our fantasy draft kit. All of this boils down to one key point: if MJD doesn't play for the Jaguars for whatever reason this year, Usain Bolt your way to the waiver wires, because Jennings is a good pickup.
Jacksonville Jaguars' Season
The Jaguars aren't a very good team. Let's get that out of the way up front. With a starting quarterback directly out of Remember the Titans, a receiving corps anchored by Dallas' #3 WR last year and a rookie, and an offensive line that couldn't stop a moving Matchbox car, let alone a train, there's a reason that the Jaguars' offense ranks #31 in numberFire's rankings and the team as a whole sits at #28. Even with MJD on their roster, the playoff odds aren't too pretty:
Chance of Playoffs: 18.7%
Chance of Championship: 0.5%
Those odds barely move when MJD is removed and Rashad Jennings is inserted into the lineup. As noted above, Jennings has a small sample size to go off of, meaning that it is tough to get odds as accurate as the ones you would get for Jones-Drew. However, since Jennings has been nearly as efficient in his running in his two seasons played, the odds would barely go down. Not that there's far down to go, mind you. Figure that the Jaguars would still have a record right around the 5-11 range, with playoff odds maybe down fraction of a percentage point and Super Bowl odds... well, if the Jaguars win the Super Bowl, it will be a mini miracle in itself.