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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.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Pats Add LaMont Jordan to Running Back Mix

I had the Rotoworld news shift earlier today, and here was my take on the LaMont Jordan signing:

NFL Network's Adam Schefter reports the Patriots have signed RB LaMont Jordan, a day after he was released by the Raiders.
Jordan also considered New Orleans, but the Pats swooped in on another cheap, serviceable vet. This may say as much about the club's confidence in Sammy Morris' health as it does about Laurence Maroney. However, it's been clear for some time that Maroney's usage patterns were simply not reliable enough for fantasy leaguers, and Jordan's signing adds further concern. Maroney will remain the starter, but Jordan could play a significant enough role to hamper Maroney's consistency and overall production.

. . .

The Patriots are hosting free agent RB LaMont Jordan on a visit at Gillette Stadium Saturday.
Well that didn't take long. Laurence Maroney owners are a tough lot, but the constant running back flirtations have to be getting wearisome. It may say more about the Pats depth than it does about Maroney, but Jordan would still likely dent the starter's value if signed. With Deuce McAllister's knee flaring up, Jordan may visit New Orleans as well.

Boston Globe beat writer Mike Reiss offered some analysis with the assistance of former NFL front office man Mike Lombardi:

The Patriots signed free-agent RB LaMont Jordan today, bolstering what was already a strong area on the roster.

How might Jordan fit into the mix?

I just exchanged emails with Mike Lombardi, who while working for the Raiders signed Jordan as a free agent in 2005. This is what Lombardi -- whose blog often contains similar insights -- had to say about Jordan: "He is very talented and has speed and power. He has great hands and can run over or around tackles. He just needs to be focused and in shape which won't be hard for Bill [Belichick] to handle."

At 5-foot-10, 230 pounds, Jordan does appear to have the type of versatility the Patriots often seek. The question is where he fits on a stocked depth chart headlined by Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, and Heath Evans.

The Patriots kept four running backs out of training camp last year. Perhaps they'll keep five this season.

Morris is coming back from a chest injury that limited him to six games last season, so perhaps Jordan is insurance in that regard. He also potentially could fill in for Faulk in a third-down role.

I wouldn't want to be a Laurence Maroney owner right now. His value is simply too precarious. I've heard insider-type rumors over the past year that the team's brass doesn't think he's tough enough to hold up physically to a full load in addition to their frustration about him dancing behind the line instead of hitting the hole directly.

Regardless of Jordan's ultimate role on the team, I've been saying for quite some time that I simply don't trust Maroney to be used consistently in the Pats offense. We're talking about a prospective fantasy starter who racked up a whopping four receptions last season! Jordan's signing just adds more confusion to a usage pattern that was already tough to get a handle on.

If you're a true Maroney believer, I'm certainly not going to sway you. But for those non-Maroney owners out there, I'd advise letting someone else deal with that headache.

. . .

Sunday, July 27 update from Footballguys.com's resident Patriots expert David Yudkin:

From what I can tell, here is what I have seen and pieced together.

Even though he appears healthy, the Pats have some level of concern over Morris in recovering from his injury from last year. I certainly am no doctor, but his injury was pretty rare, and they are not sure what will happen once he gets to butting heads in live action. Yes, he feels better and says he's fine (which player ever says he's not if he expects to play and have a job). Yes, he's running and doing what is asked of him. But the Pats aren't taking any chances that one good hit could lay up Morris again.

I think BB likes having options. different schemes, and depth across the board, and this gives him anoher big body to work with. I also think BB in some ways liked the Dillon/Maroney tag team approach to running the football, as it kept both players a little fresher and the two backs combined for some impressive totals.

The Pats can win in the regular season without running Maroney into the ground, and this is likely another sign that the team is not going to give Maroney 300-350 carries. The last few years in the post season, they ran into problems when their running game stalled:

45 rushing yards and a 2.9 ypc against NYG in the SB
51 rushing yards and a 2.4 ypc against SD in 06
93 rushing yards and a 3.9 ypc against IND in 06
78 rushing yards and a 3.8 ypc against DEN in 05

I have been resolute in suggesting that NE has figured out that they don't need to kill themselves or their players to make the post season, so what they do is more a chess game to have their team as best prepared for the post season. I think we will again see NE pass early and often in the first half to gain the lead and run more to kill the clock late in the game if they have a decent lead. What's interesting is that I think Maroney will be the one that gets the ball through 3/4s of the game, but the other guys will get the carries in mop up duty.

I still see Maroney getting 15-18 carries when he plays on average, little in the receiving department, and a smattering of TD when he gets them but not a huge total. If he misses a game or two and they try to keep him fresh, I only see him maxing out at about 250 carries with very few receptions. IIRC, Faulk played more downs than Maroney did last year.

I don't personally think Jordan's signing would lower my expectations for Maroney all that much . . . but my expectations were lower than many people's to begin with.

I doubt anyone I know would have much insight yet as to what this all means, but I'll check in and see what's what after we see what happens in a bit of training camp.

If I had to guess without putting a ton of thought into it . . .

Maroney 210-220
Morris 100
Jordan 80
Faulk 40
Brady 30
Eckel 30

I think the interesting thing will be what happens if everyone is healthy for 16 games.

The Pats will probably pass less in the second half than they did last year (especially early on), but I still think the offense has migrated to a pass first philosophy with running the plan for late in the game.

The Pats overall have not shown a predilection to give Maroney the ball a ton, and I don't see that changing. He's had 20 carries 4 times in 31 career games (regular and post-season). I suspect he benefited from Morris' injury and no other great option available late in the year last year. Jordan gives them another option and more depth, but I doubt they would have explored more RBs if they really were intent on making Maroney a bell cow for carries.

From what I have heard, the Pats still plan on having a variety of sets and packages . . . some that have Maroney and many that don't . . . that they will roll out based on game sitations and opponent. I am not hearing that Maroney is getting added in to those packages.

Maybe BB will give Maroney the ball a lot more and likes what he sees, potentially giving Maroney a much bigger workload. But I still would wonder why he would do that. The team needs a ground game in the post season to win, generally not in the regular season.


Dan said...

Thanks for the heads up Chris!Listening to your advice was one of the key factors that contributed to me trading Maroney this past week. I'm in a three player keeper league(1 pt. for 10 yds. receiving. 1 pt. for 20 yards receiver, 1 pt. per reception for wrs only.) Who did I trade Maroney for? Steve Smith. Needless to say, I feel very fortunate today. Thanks again!

Chris Wesseling said...

Thanks, Dan.

I'm glad you pulled the trigger on that one. I love me some Steve Smith.

Check the post again today -- there's an informative update from the FBG message boards by Pats expert David Yudkin.