Why You Should Reach for Maurice Jones-Drew in Your Fantasy Football Draft

Leo Howell@LeoHowell8Contributor IIIAugust 15, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 09: Maurice Jones-Drew #32 of the Jacksonville Jaguars during the opening day against the Minnesota Vikings September 9, 2012 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Jaguars 26-23 in overtime. (Photo by Andy King/Getty Images)
Andy King/Getty Images

Maurice Jones-Drew is being disrespected in fantasy football drafts this year.

Sure, there have been some health concerns and holdout theatrics in recent years, but the man known as MJD has never skipped a beat. You'd be wise to take Jones-Drew as soon as the second round starts in your draft, because Jones-Drew is going to be one of the 12 best running backs in the league this year.

Jones-Drew is currently going in the third round of most drafts, according to ESPN.com's live draft results, coming in behind Frank Gore and Chris Johnson. But he's a much better value than that.

You should reach for Jones-Drew as early as the second round, because he's going to be healthy, he's going to have plenty of opportunities and he's going to produce.


Jones-Drew Will Be Healthy This Year

There's no doubt that foot injuries for running backs are scary, but Jones-Drew has been treated with "kid gloves" all summer to make sure he's ready to go for Week 1.

And according to Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union out of Jacksonville, Jones-Drew has been a "bright spot" in camp so far. He has also reportedly yet to miss a practice or game of his own volition, instead being held back by head coach Gus Bradley.

And as you can see in the image above, Jones-Drew has been tested during camp, and there have been no negative reports since he took to the field.

That's a great sign for your fantasy team, because a healthy Jones-Drew is going to be a focal point of the Jacksonville offense.


Jones-Drew Will Get Plenty of Chances

The Jaguars were forced to throw the ball more often than they'd have liked in 2012 due to Jones-Drew's absence, but don't forget about their offensive identity when Jones-Drew was healthy.

They ran the ball. And they ran it often.

In 2010 and 2011, the Jaguars ranked in the top five in the NFL in rushing attempts, feeding Jones-Drew the rock at least 299 times for each of the three seasons prior to his injury in 2012.

2012 was a continuation of the trend of featuring MJD in the offense, as the Jags got the ball into the hands of Jones-Drew at least 15 times in the first four games before a blowout in the fifth game. An injury in the sixth game ended his season prematurely. 

And Jones-Drew knows what to do with a healthy number of touches.


Jones-Drew Will Produce, Even In A Bad Offense

In 2011, the Jacksonville Jaguars were in the bottom five in both points scored and yards gained on offense. 2010 was a bit better, but the team was still in the middle of the pack in both categories. 2009 had a similar mediocre set of rankings for the Jacksonville offense.

Jones-Drew was in the top five in rushing yards in every one of those years.

So even if MJD is only 80 percent of his former self, or if he misses two games this year, he's still going to produce like a top-10 running back. If there is a literal 20 percent regression from his 2011 numbers, Jones-Drew would still earn 206 fantasy points in a standard league, or 240 in a PPR league.

According to the ESPN.com Draft Kit Projections, that would place him between LeSean McCoy and Alfred Morris in the top 10 among running backs.

So unless you believe the 28-year-old Jones-Drew is due for a huge decline this year (just as a note: that's the same age as consensus No. 1 pick Adrian Peterson; they were born two days apart), you should take him with confidence near the start of the second round in your fantasy leagues this year.

And if you don't, someone else will take him a few picks later, and that person will have a better running back than you.