Breaking Down Maurice Jones-Drew's Career: How Good Was MJD?

Maurice Jones-Drew is hanging up his cleats after nine years in the NFL. What do the advanced metrics have to say about his career?

After nine years in the NFL, Maurice Jones-Drew has announced his retirement.

Jones-Drew had plenty of ups -- and plenty of downs, unfortunately -- in his career, but just how good was he when he had those ups?

Well, in 2011, Jones-Drew won the rushing title after compiling 1,606 yards on 343 attempts (a 4.68 yards per carry average). A running back had maintained a 4.6-plus yards per carry average on 340 or more attempts just 23 times in NFL history, including MJD's 2011 season.

However, after amassing 49 rushing touchdowns (and 5 receiving touchdowns) in his first four seasons in the league from 2006 to 2009, Jones-Drew was able to reach the end zone just 25 times total in his next five seasons, four of which came with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In 2014, his final year in the league, Jones-Drew went to Oakland but saw just 43 carries in an injury-shortened season.

MJD certainly had his share of NFL glory, posting double-digit touchdowns in three of his first four seasons, but he also wound up playing on some of the worst offenses in recent NFL history.

So what do our metrics have to say about his career?

The Early Days

Jones-Drew was a touchdown-scoring phenom in his first four seasons -- we've already established that. But in his first three seasons (during which he scored 13, 9, and 12 touchdowns, respectively), he carried the ball just 166, 167, and 197 times.

In 2009, he racked up 15 scores on 312 carries.

In terms of our Net Expected Points (NEP) data, that production was pretty dang solid. If you're new to numberFire, NEP is our way of quantifying player production in terms of how well a player played above or below league average. It accounts for field position and other in-game factors to see who really impacts the game and not just racks up stats.

Here are Jones-Drew's relevant rushing metrics and ranks among 100-plus carry rushers in that given season.

YearRushesRush NEPRankRush NEP/PRankSuccess RateRank
200616633.063 of 470.202 of 4747.59%4 of 47
200716713.0111 of 490.0811 of 4944.31%14 of 49
20081976.5012 of 490.0312 of 4944.16%14 of 49
200931223.184 of 500.0711 of 5042.95%22 of 50

In each of his four seasons, Jones-Drew was a top-12 back in both cumulative Rushing NEP and Rushing NEP per carry. His Success Rate, which measures the rate at which a player records a positive NEP gain on a play, was never quite on par with his actual NEP numbers, and that can certainly indicate a struggling offense. In those four seasons, the Jags' offense ranked inside the top half in Adjusted NEP per play just once. They had the third-best offense in the league in 2007.

Further, each of Jones-Drew's four seasons in this span finished inside the top 18 in Total NEP (which accounts for both Rushing and Reception NEP) among running backs who saw at least 100 carries in a given season. There were 195 instances of those from 2006-2009, so Jones-Drew's Total NEP in each season was inside the top 10 percent of running backs despite playing three of four seasons on teams that hovered around the league average in offensive efficiency.

The Later Days

Of course, things began to go downhill for MJD, and his touchdown numbers plunged. After 2009, he never hit double digits again and surpassed five touchdowns just once, during his 2011 season. He also failed to receive 100 carries in both 2012 and 2014.

So how MJD fare in his three 100-plus carry seasons after 2009?

YearRushesRush NEPRankRush NEP/PRankSuccess RateRank
2010300-1.4014 of 450.0014 of 4545.67%10 of 45
2011344-3.0126 of 51-0.0124 of 5142.73%22 of 51
2013235-21.2141 of 47-0.0938 of 4734.89%41 of 47

Well, 2010 wasn't awful, as he ranked 14th in Rushing NEP despite posting his first negative Rushing NEP.

His 2011 season may have brought him the rushing title, but it was actually the least efficient season of his career to that point. He fumbled six times, losing one on the three yard-line, which is a big swing in Rushing NEP. He scored only eight touchdowns.

He also fumbled 6 times in 2008 but scored 12 touchdowns. He lost two, but neither were inside either red zone.

2013, though, was easily his worst season in terms of our advanced metrics, and he was one of the least efficient backs in the league. He then departed to the Black Hole of Oakland and saw just 43 carries.

Summing Up MJD

Jones-Drew had a polarizing career, spending time as both one of the best backs in the league and as a struggling runner in not-so-great offenses. Among the 128 unique seasons from 2010 to 2013, the Jaguars ranked 63rd, 121st, 122nd, and 125th in Adjusted NEP per play.

But when the Jags had the semblance of an average offense, MJD was able to thrive, racking up touchdowns and posting solid Total NEP numbers.

Jones-Drew only ever played on one team that finished with a winning record -- the 2007 Jaguars were 11-5 -- but MJD should remembered for his consistently stellar play relative both to his team's offense and to the league's other running backs.

You can also remember him for the time that he laid out Shawne Merriman.