These teams that have exactly one high-end fantasy asset are always trouble where the Juggernaut Index is concerned. An individual talent like Larry Fitzgerald or Adrian Peterson can keep a franchise out of the basement, but typically not out of the high-20s.
So it goes with Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags' offense was dreadful last year — dead-last in yardage, 29th in scoring — yet MJD still led the league in rushing by a comfortable margin. He dismissed the preseason concerns about his knee, appearing in all 16 games for Jacksonville, gaining 1,980 yards from scrimmage and scoring 11 touchdowns. He was brilliant. Heroic. Unreasonably good. Every other member of the Jaguars offense combined for 2,500 scrimmage yards and 10 TDs.
Just think about that for a moment: As a team, Jacksonville averaged only 280 total yards per week — 123.1 on the ground, 156.9 through the air. On his own, Jones-Drew accounted for 123.8 of those total yards. Defenses were focused on him to an absurd extent, but he still piled up stats at a league-best rate. He was also remarkably consistent, topping the 100-scrimmage-yards plateau in 10 of the Jags' final 11 games. Jones-Drew never let down his fantasy owners, nor did he ever let down Jacksonville fans.
Considering MJD's importance to his franchise and the mileage he's accumulated over six pro seasons, it's tough to blame him for threatening to hold out into training camp. In the NFL, players basically need to get whatever they're worth at the exact moment they're worth it. Right now, Jones-Drew has the rushing title and a good-not-great contract, signed before he'd proven himself as a 300-carry back. Thus, he's now involved in a stare-down with the team that could drag into August, if not beyond. Let's hope this thing is resolved to everyone's satisfaction before your league holds its draft.
If for some reason an MJD holdout lingers into the regular season, then Rashad Jennings will again get interesting — or at least as interesting as a handcuff on a bad team can possibly be. He's shown flashes of talent in his two seasons, averaging 5.4 yards-per-carry on 123 rush attempts. Jennings missed all of 2011, placed on injured reserve in September with a knee issue, but he's healthy now and functioning as the team's first-team back. He could get a big value bump, depending on the way Jones-Drew's situation plays out.
And so ends the semi-positive portion of our 2012 Jacksonville Jaguars fantasy preview. Hope you enjoyed it. We shall now discuss the rest of this steaming mess of an offense...
Blaine Gabbert wasn't merely bad in his rookie season, but funny-bad. Before you accuse me of exaggerating his deficiencies, I'll remind you of this throw from Week 11, which was ruled a fumble because he heaved it backwards, removing his team from the red zone. In Gabbert's 15 games last year, he only topped 200 passing yards three times, and he never topped 225. He completed just 50.8 percent of his passes, threw 12 TDs and 11 interceptions, and he fumbled 14 times, losing five. When pressured, he was often a skittish wreck. That aspect of his play perhaps came as no surprise if you watched the closing minutes of his final collegiate game.
Sure, reasonable excuses can be made for Gabbert's horrid first-year performance: The lockout was an issue (although other rookie QBs survived it), his receivers were the league's worst, and he apparently played through an injury. No one is trying to say that he was dealt a strong NFL hand. But nonetheless, Gabbert was startlingly ineffective — and his failures were thrown into sharp relief as we watched so many other rookie quarterbacks find their way.
Jacksonville signed veteran Chad Henne during the off-season, a flawed but strong-armed QB coming off shoulder surgery. Henne's best trait, it can be argued, is that he's not Blaine Gabbert. When he was added to the mix back in March, new head coach Mike Mularkey referred to Henne as "a backup competing for a starting job." If he opens the season behind center for the Jags, we'll all feel slightly better about this team's offense ... unless of course Jones-Drew is still a no-show. That would be terrible.
The Jaguars upgraded their receiving corps in no small way via the draft and free agency, adding rookie wideout Justin Blackmon and veteran Laurent Robinson. Blackmon was a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner at Oklahoma State and a two-time All-American, the best wide receiver in his draft class according to most (but not all) observers. Unfortunately, he's also a two-time DUI offender, so he'll have a much shorter disciplinary leash than most first-year players. Blackmon was an utterly dominant collegiate receiver who posted ridiculous numbers in the Cowboys' Tecmo offense, and he came up big against the toughest opponents on OSU's schedule. He's not a Megatron-level talent, no, but I think the comparisons to a young Anquan Boldin work well.
If Blackmon would have somehow slipped to the Panthers on draft day, he'd rank alongside Trent Richardson and RGIII as the buzziest rookies for fantasy purposes. But he didn't. Instead, he's tied to this Gabbert-Henne situation, limiting his ceiling.
Robinson is a very good wideout with a deep injury history, coming off a career year in Dallas. The Jaguars handed him a five-year, $32.5 million deal during the off-season (nearly $14 million guaranteed), and it would surprise most of us if that deal ends up looking like a win for the team. Robinson hauled in 11 touchdown catches on just 54 receptions last year, an unsustainable rate in almost any offense. Many of his highlights in 2011 actually appeared to be improvisational events, instances where Tony Romo extended a play and eventually found his favorite in-case-of-emergency receiver. Does anyone think the same magic will happen with Gabbert or Henne, even if Robinson happens to remain healthy? It sure seems doubtful.
At the moment, neither Blackmon nor Robinson are being selected inside the top-100 picks in a typical league, so we can't say they're being over-drafted. Blackmon's ADP is 113.5 (WR43) and Robinson's is 127.6 (WR50). As long as you're not thinking of either player as a fantasy starter, you won't be disappointed. There's no reason to believe this offense can support a third ownable fantasy wideout, not that you would have been interested in the names further down on Jacksonville's depth chart anyway. The list begins with Mike Thomas, Lee Evans and Cecil Shorts, then it just gets worse. Stay away. If you happen to play in a league that awards points for red zone drops, give tight end Marcedes Lewis a look. In all other formats, leave him alone — tight end is too deep a position for Lewis' name to enter the discussion.
The Jaguars' D ranked sixth in the league in terms of yards-allowed last season, but they didn't deliver quite enough interceptions (17), sacks (31) or defensive TDs (3) to emerge as a fantasy force. You might stream them at some point in the 2012 season, but you're not drafting them. None of the Yahoo! experts placed them higher than No. 23 in the DEF ranks. LB Paul Posluszny remains an IDP of interest, while LB Daryl Smith and DE Jeremy Mincey belong on your draft board, too.
No Jaguars team preview would be complete without a reminder that this franchise drafted a punter in Round 3, despite having glaring needs up and down the roster. Bryan Anger is, by all accounts, a very good punter, but, um...wow.
And five picks later, Seattle drafted Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson. There's a little nugget to file away, Jags fans. You're welcome.
2011 team stats: 15.2 PPG (NFL rank 29), 123.1 rush YPG (12), 156.9 pass YPG (32), 22.1 yards/drive (32), 0.12 turnovers/drive (11)