The Oakland Raiders and Maurice Jones-Drew have reached a 3 year agreement today, which means for the first time in his career, MJD will not be wearing a Jaguars uniform. This comes a few weeks after the Raiders re-signed oft injured Darren McFadden to a one-year “prove it” deal. As puzzling as the Raiders’ offseason strategy has been, their latest move is one that potentially has significant fantasy implications.
While initially it may seem like the Raiders are planning to go with a running back by committee approach, I don’t expect that to be the case. The most notable thing about DMC’s contract was that out of the $4 million reported, only $100,000 was guaranteed. That’s less than what a pharmacist makes in a year, and they don’t have people trying to knock the hell out of them. Of course, he’s likely to make another $1.25 million in terms of “easy” incentives, but then the rest are all “unlikely” incentives. Well those unlikely incentives became even more unlikely with the signing of MJD. While the terms of the contract with MJD haven’t been released yet, if we’re strictly speaking in terms of financial reasons, logic points to MJD being the workhorse back, whereas DMC will be relegated to a third down back, if that. Remember, MJD has been one of the better receiving running backs in the NFL since he entered the NFL after UCLA, so don’t expect him to come out too often on passing downs. Now I don’t expect MJD to be bellcow he was when he was in Jacksonville, but 60/40 or 65/35 split is more than obtainable for Mojo.
Now that it’s been established that I think MJD will receive the majority of the carries, what should you expect out of him in 2014? Jones-Drew had a 3.4 yards-per-carry average last year, easily the worst of his career. We all remember the days of old where MJD was described as a “bowling ball” because of his small but powerful running style. Those days may be over. Since 2009, his Yards after Contact per Attempt have consistently dropped, from 3.0 to 2.9 to 2.8 to 2.3 to 2.2 in 2013. In addition, his elusiveness rating (which, to be fair, factors in YCo/Att), was 30.3 last year, down from 41.8 in 2011 and 31.5 in 2010. All these stats are evidence that his overuse from 2009-2011 (318 carries a year) is finally catching up to the Oakland native.
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For what it’s worth, I do expect MJD to have the first crack at being the goal-line back, and he should also receive the majority of the carries. Even so, Jones-Drew is clearly in the twilight years of his career, and fantasy owners shouldn’t rush to draft them in the upcoming summer. I’ll probably have MJD ranked in the 30-35 range, around guys like Moreno, whom I talked about in great detail here. I don’t think that going to Oakland was a “black hole” in terms of his fantasy production, but he won’t be the reason why you do or do not win your fantasy championships next season.