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This blog was born out of a Dynasty Rankings thread originally begun in October, 2006 at the Footballguys.com message boards. The rankings in that thread and the ensuing wall-to-wall discussion of player values and dynasty league strategy took on a life of its own at over 275 pages and 700,000 page views. The result is what you see in the sidebar under "Updated Positional Rankings": a comprehensive ranking of dynasty league fantasy football players by position on a tiered, weighted scale. In the tradition of the original footballguys.com Dynasty Rankings thread, intelligent debate is welcome and encouraged.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Jones-Drew, Maurice: Value Notes

streamkeeper 1/21/08:
I fear I am not as technical as some of your other posters, but I am curious as to why you have MJD as tier 1 (RB#7). While you must know I am also optimistic about him but, your rankings are considerably higher than the norm I am seeing.
We have all heard the negatives; too small & not a full time back......
What are you seeing there that others are missing?
He reminds my a lot of Westbrook and that's a good thing.

gianmarco 1/21/08: Aside from going back and looking as I believe there are quite a few posts about him, the main reason for his ranking is "upside".

I was a doubter heading into this season and I have since come around. The kid is just simply ultra talented and has performed at an almost elite level despite limited touches. There simply is no reason to believe he couldn't handle the full load. If he gets it, which may happen in the near future, he has the talent and potential to crack the top 3 in FF with ease. That's essentially why.

Look at the guys ranked below him and find a guy that has a realistic shot at finishing in the top 3. Aside from LJ, Portis, and maybe Lynch, I don't see it. There are reasons why to rank LJ as low as he is, and Portis and Lynch are right below him. Bottomline, you want to get as many elite talents on your team as you can and MJD has already shown he can definitely be that with an increased workload.

All the guys below him are good and solid and are better NOW, but just don't have that potential to win your season like MJD can. I'm pretty sure that's what he's gonna tell ya.

PranksterJD 1/21/08: I posed a similar question on the new blog during the Playoff Week 2 rankings. This was the response...

Q: I've got to ask in about MJD. I've been through the recent discussion in the Shark Pool, and can agree with the idea that the guy is a physical wildman on the field ( I think my favorite description is that he's "a bowling ball on methamphetamines", don't remember which shark said it though ). But does a guy who only averages 11 carries a game REALLY belong in Tier 1? The 89 he's got right now is a HUGE bump from the 77 last ranking, and I'm just not sure I can buy that he belongs on the same tier as the feature back guys at the top level?

A: I think if you say that MJD is such a dynamic talent that you wouldn't trade him for Addai right now, then don't you have to rank him pretty close to Addai? If you believe his future is special, then you're not giving him up and missing out on difference-making fantasy production once he does get a bump in touches. It's tough to know when it's going to happen, but it IS likely to happen.

Fred Taylor is looking outstanding right now and taking better care of his body, but he's going to be almost 33 years old to begin next season, and age catches up to everybody. Like I said, you can't pinpoint exactly when MJD will see that big bump in touches, but it could happen at any time.

Another thing to consider is that you mentioned only his carries, but he's a major factor in the passing game and in the return game. He's an unique fantasy player in that he's a TD vulture inside the 10-yardline PLUS a homerun threat every time he touches the ball AND one of the absolute best receiving backs in the NFL.

I'm having a bit of trouble with the footballreference site, but I know that he finished 8th among RBs in limited touches his rookie season, and I believe he finished somewhere around 12th this season. If you believe his touches are likely to increase, then he's an elite RB.

PranksterJD: I'm not sure I agree wholeheartedly ( not sure I'd trade Addai for MJD, even though I don't like Addai), but I can't argue too much about the ranking (its the whole "Who would you put above him?" reasoning). I'm not sure I agree totally with gianmarco either, as even with a full time job I don't have MJD breaking into the top 3, but for me its a probable top 5 and the difference isn't worth squabbling over. Really IMHO the only real change I'd make here is to limit the "Tier 1" moniker to the consensus top 4 guys and move everybody down one, putting the Addai, Gore, MJD crew (those with "question marks") down to "Tier 2"... but that's a semantic problem that I can resolve on my own.

Sons of the Tundra 1/21/08: I agree that I have him higher than probably anybody else producing dynasty rankings, but I'm a firm believer in taking chances and believing in what your eyes tell you as opposed to building a consensus with other rankers and sticking with conventional wisdom. That said, I realize it's a risky ranking. I don't think the rankings of any "expert" or pseudo-expert do anybody any good if they play it safe. You can compile rankings from all over the internet to gauge a normative value for a player like MJD. Anybody can do that. But I think the idea is to be ahead of the curve on rankings as opposed to being reactionary. It's not easy, and I know I fail to stay out front on plenty of guys. But that's always the goal...

I agree that MJD could be too high especially if Fred Taylor's legs stay fresh for another year, but I prefer to get in on the ground floor with MJD before he blows up like Westbrook and becomes unattainable. Like gianmarco said, he's an elite talent. Those are the guys I want. If I say I wouldn't trade him for Addai, how much lower than Addai can I rank him?

So bottom line, I realize it's a risky ranking. I don't expect everybody to agree, especially if your style is less of a riverboat gambler.

1/21/08: I'm not high on him because of his "upside". I expect his per-play metrics to fall through the floor if he ever gets the full-time job. I think he'll be a top-5 RB, but I don't expect any LaDanian Tomlinson 2006 type seasons out of him (because that's what his part-time numbers would project to). What does it for me is just his raw talent. There isn't anything that any coach could ask of an RB that Jones-Drew isn't one of the best in the NFL at doing. He runs, he blocks, he catches, he returns. He excels on 1st down, 3rd down, short yardage, long yardage, between the 20s and in the red zone. He's smart, he has an incredible work ethic, he has no character concerns that I know of. He's a blue-chipper in terms of recruiting rankings and draft position (yes, 2nd rounders are still elite talents). He produced in high school, he produced in college, he produced in the NFL. He quite literally has no negatives other than the fact that he's currently sharing carries with one of the best rushers of all time. Oh, and he's a couple inches shorter than most other RBs (although of a comparable height to guys like Peyton and Sanders). I don't view that as a negative- watching him play, his height gives him an advantage because it's that much harder for tacklers to get under his pads, which is a big reason why he's so good in short yardage. Plus, while he's short, he's most definitely NOT small- he's a bowling ball on meth (that was me, by the way, Prankster).

I don't know what his upside is going to be, whether he becomes Brian Westbrook or LaDanian Tomlinson... all I know is that he the type of talent that only comes along a couple of times a decade, and barring injury, he is going to be a star in this league for a long, long time. On the field, he is every bit as talented as Fred Taylor, and wouldn't a 25-year old Taylor be worth a top-10 dynasty pick in startup drafts? Especially if he wasn't an injury risk?

. . .

wdcrob 5/7/07: You said "Has anybody explained yet why there is no concern over Reggie Bush’s future production sharing carries with Deuce, but the hand-wringing and disbelief is endless with MJD? Jones-Drew basically had the rookie season that matched even the most optimistic expectations for Bush’s rookie production. MJD did a better Bush impersonation than Bush himself did. Pretty impressive, no?"

I couldn't agree more since I've been making the same arguments and just took MJD #8 in a dynasty startup. But why do you have Bush #3 and MJD #12?

Bush is currently sharing carries with a better RB than Jones-Drew and hasn't shown he can run b/w the tackles yet either. And while sentiment here has seen Taylor morph from Fragile Freddie into Superman in the last 12 months, I think it's pretty unlikely Taylor's around beyond this year, and that MJD will also get the full load sooner than Bush.

Sons of the Tundra 5/7/07:
1. I think Bush is more talented.
2. There's a good possibly that Bush will catch close to 2x as many passes per season as MJD.
3. I like the way Bush came on late in the season.
4. Bush plays in a much more explosive and dependably productive offense.
5. I don't think either player is the type of back to lose value due to sharing the backfield with another back, so I'm not worried about Deuce or Fred Taylor.
6. Every team that played the Saints was geared up to stop Reggie Bush. I think MJD was able to take advantage of a surprise factor last season.

I like both guys. I've been saying for awhile that too many guys knock MJD because they haven't seen him play. He's a powerful, explosive back...and, like Bush, it doesn't matter if he's sharing the backfield.

wdcrob 5/7/07: Good posting. I think the only difference we've got is that I'm not convinced Bush will ever be a team's primary rusher. Not saying he won't, just that there's some risk there.

Sons of the Tundra 5/7/07: I agree. I think if you're looking for a reason not to like Bush, that's a valid risk.

Even so, he's going to catch an inordinate number of passes to the point where he's basically slump-proof. You don't have to worry about him throwing up a zero even when he's not running well (and if anything is unacceptable, it's a zero). Additionally, I think Sean Payton is a creative enough offensive mind to take advantage of Bush's strengths in the running game and diminish any weaknesses.

. . .

Buckna 4/6/07: I see Maurice Jones-Drew and Marion Barber as extremely similar for dynasty purposes right now with their situations and performance last year. Your rankings make me think you have a combo of over-rating Mo-Jo and under-rating Barber going on. If I shouldn't expect Barber to repeat his '06 TD production, why shouldn't I expect the same to happen to Mo-Jo?

Sons of the Tundra 4/6/07: Other than the fact that they both scored 16 TDs last season and they both share carries in the backfield for now, I don't think their performances or situations are all that analogous. Here is where I separate the two of them:

1. TALENT: I've watched them both play. Mo-Jo is the better, more explosive runner. And I don't think it's close. On talent alone, Maurice Jones-Drew is a significantly better dynasty investment than Marion Barber III. Very important distinction.

2. SITUATION: I think the Dallas situation is still up in the air, whereas I believe Mo-Jo is no doubt the future in JAX's backfield. I've seen a lot of people on this board dismiss what Julius Jones brings to the table (only a couple of years after those same people anointed him an absolute stud coming off his rookie season), but the coaching staff has determined that he deserved more carries than Barber two years in a row. There are definitely things Barber does better than Jones, but there are also things Jones does better than Barber. Fred Taylor, on the other hand, is not only nearing the end of the line, but he's also a very poor bet to stay healthy or match last year's numbers.

Furthermore, Mo-Jo is the type of back where it doesn't hurt his value much to be sharing carries. You don't want to waste him on the carries normally reserved for keeping the defense honest or merely mixing in a run to balance the offense -- that's Fred Taylor's role. He's not going to catch as many passes as Reggie Bush, and he's certainly going to rush the ball more than Bush will, but his role in the offense is going to be very similar to Bush's...meaning it's not going to affect his value or usage as much to have another RB to share carries.

3. TOUCHDOWNS: Both players scored 16 TDs last year. Mo-Jo did it by showing explosiveness, homerun hitting ability, great leg drive & moves inside the 10 yard line and impressive receiving ability. He's a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. Barber, while also impressing on his way to 16 TDs, earned a much greater share of his TDs based on the Cowboys' employment of him inside the red zone. He's much more dependent on his team's red zone performance than Mo-Jo is, and, as such, is much less likely to consistently repeat his TD numbers.

4. STATS: Career yards-per-carry: Mo-Jo -- 5.7, Barber -- 4.4. Additionally, in his rookie season Mo-Jo caught 46 passes for a 9.5 average and 2 TDs. In two seasons Barber has caught 41 passes for a 7.6 average and 2 TDs.

5. SCORING: Mo-Jo's FBG scoring rank last season: #8 overall. Barber's FBG scoring rank last season: #14 overall. Barber's FBG scoring rank the year before: #35.

They don't seem like very similar running backs to me. I'm not saying you should be down on Barber or that you should take my word on Mo-Jo as gospel. I'm just explaining the thought process that goes into the rankings. i.e. This is how I see things.

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