A year ago this week, Chris Johnson wasn't the happiest of individuals. Instead of basking in the glory of his third straight monstrous campaign, the disgruntled rusher was aggravated over his financial standing. The man had a point. In terms of dollars per yard, he was the best bargain going in the league, the anti-Mark Sanchez.
No surprise CJ2K's crew dug in.
After weeks of promises not to report to Titans training camp without a new contract, Johnson backed up his threats. What ensued over the scorching August days was a fiery feud between Bud Adams and the offensive centerpiece. Eventually, in an eleventh hour deal struck just days before Tennessee's season opener against, coincidentally enough, Jacksonville, management submitted to the three-time Pro Bowler's demands gifting him a six-year $55 million deal, $30 million of which was guaranteed. The game of poker was finished. In the end Johnson stacked the chips.
Now, it's Maurice Jones-Drew's turn to chase the river.
On Thursday, the rusher's former tag-team partner and close friend Fred Taylor hinted MJD will be a no show when the Jags reopen for business Friday.
In this day and age of disposable RBs, it's understandable why the franchise's biggest star is steadfast on penning a new deal. His plight is no different than Matt Forte's or Ray Rice's. With each passing year, earning power for a rusher diminishes. Remember, the average NFL back's career lasts roughly four years, which is why, as esteemed colleague Michael Silver recently noted, the position as a whole has struggled to cash in for the better part of the last decade.
Though only 27, MJD's odometer reading is high. He's logged three consecutive seasons of at least 300 carries. His stocky, Russian nesting doll-like frame is an ideal build for a workhorse, but with the league trending away from traditional ground-and-pound methods, the beast of burden is an endangered species.
For fantasy purposes, MoJo is an overpriced commodity. Despite coming off a banner year in which he won a rushing title, he's smothered in risk. At his current mid-first round ADP (8.6), he's a player to avoid. Why? Here are four reasons:
Mileage. The tred on MJD's tires is thin. Though predecessors LaDainian Tomlinson, Edgerrin James and Eddie George performed well shouldering a tiresome load for a fourth straight year, there are several others who broke down. Priest Holmes, Ricky Williams, Shaun Alexander and Rudi Johnson each succumbed to major injuries coming off their third successive 300-carry season. MoJo's unusual compact frame can withstand punishment better than most backs, but history isn't on his side.
Rashad Jennings. Entering training camp last year, Jacksonville's brass openly expressed its desire to decrease MJD's workload. Jennings, they felt, deserved additional opportunities. Unfortunately, the backup's knee disintegrated last August, thwarting the team's two-man plan. The coaching/ownership regime has changed, but the perception of Jennings hasn't. It shouldn't. Standing at 6-foot-1, 235-pounds, he's a tackle-shredding back that oozes upside. Keep in mind, he's averaged a hefty 5.4 yards per carry in his three-year career.
Now healthy and coming off a strong offseason, the Liberty product is expected to net an uptick in touches, possibly toting the rock some 8-12 times per game. And that could be a conservative estimate. As Black and Teal recently proposed, what if Jennings rushes for 100 yards Week 1 in Minnesota with the incumbent on the sidelines? That occurs and Mike Mularkey could rethink the backfield split entirely.
Blaine Gabbert. The primary reason why Jones-Drew donned a crown a season ago was due to the passing game's embarrassing ineptitude. When compared side-by-side with Cleveland, the Jags' dreadful receiving battery and Gabbert's horrendous play made the Browns look like the New England Patriots. It's no surprise why MJD accounted for 47.7 percent of the team's offensive production, the highest in the NFL.
However, change is in the air. This offseason, the organization has done everything in its power to improve Gabbert's situation. With Laurent Robinson and Justin Blackmon aboard, the QB now has adequate weapons to target. After averaging just 29.3 attempts per game a season ago, the fifth-lowest in the league, the Jags will be inclined to throw more, which will likely reduce MJD's touch total some 5-10 per game.
Playoff Schedule. Stated repeatedly in this space, some, but not all, defenses can alter drastically form year-to-year. Just look at the dramatic decline of the Packers last season. But upon first glance MoJo's fantasy playoff schedule (Weeks 14-16) is very unappealing with matchups vs. NYJ, at MIA and vs. NE. Against stingy units last year, the three-time All-Pro performed decently. Week 6 at Pittsburgh, for example, he racked 10.4 fantasy points in standard formats. Still, decent doesn't lead to dollars. …
The pain and anguish CJ2LAME owners suffered in 2011 was unbearable. He entered the season out of sorts and out of shape, unable to recover as the year dragged on. Suffice it to say, his sharp downward spiral ripped out the hearts of millions. Sadly, those who choose to sink a first-round pick in Jones-Drew could experience a similar fate. Keep in mind since 2007, 4.6 rushers/year drafted as RB1s failed to finish inside the position's top-15. Implosions happen.
With MJD's camp prepared for battle and Jacksonville ownership reportedly not willing to relent, the fantasy community will again be on pins and needles hopeful for an immediate resolution. However, even if a deal is struck quickly, the Oompah Loompah's value, based on the reasons above, may drown in a chocolate river.
Fearless Forecast (11 games): 198 carries, 871 rushing yards, 31 receptions, 264 receiving yards, 6 total touchdowns
Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise and be sure to check him along with Andy Behrens, Brandon Funston and Scott Pianowski on The Fantasy Freak Show (Now on iTunes) every Friday at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on Yahoo! Sports Radio
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