The Juggernaut Index is our annual preseason ranking of NFL teams for fantasy purposes. Repeat: FANTASY PURPOSES. Here, we care primarily about yards and points. We’re not forecasting wins and losses. This isn’t your standard NFL power ranking. If a team’s roster features multiple upper-tier fantasy assets, that group will rank near the top of the J.I. If instead a team features nothing but fantasy drek, you’ll find ‘em near the bottom. Make sense? Great. Really, the J.I. is just a gimmick, a way to deliver team-by-team fantasy spin.
Welp ... another year, another Maurice Jones-Drew fantasy dilemma.
Two summers ago we were all fretting about MJD's knee, so we routinely passed on him in the first round of drafts. Naturally, he led the NFL in rushing by a mile. (OK, by 242 yards.) Last year, Jones-Drew was a no-show at camp, unhappy with a contract situation that didn't change. Maybe you downgraded him, maybe you didn't. He suffered a Lisfranc injury in Week 7 at Oakland, an issue that required surgery and sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
As of this writing, we believe that MJD's foot is more or less healed, though his conditioning suffered while he was unable to work out. There's a decent chance he'll be ready for some level of participation when training camp opens. So that's all good. But there's a legal issue swirling, too, as Jones-Drew was allegedly involved in an altercation at a bar in late-May. At the very least, the incident will be a summer distraction.
So it's been another weird offseason for an uncommonly talented back. MJD is now officially entering a contract year, not that he ever lacked motivation or drive. He's available at a second-round price at the moment and he clearly has the potential to deliver a profit. Of course he's also a running back coming off a serious foot injury. We'll need to pay close attention to the Jacksonville camp reports; no doubt there's elevated risk where Jones-Drew is concerned. This is why you don't hold your league's draft in June.
Justin Forsett appears to be Plan B for the Jags, though he's not an essential handcuff. Not enough juice to this offense; no need to pile up Jaguars.
MJD will be the first Jacksonville skill player off the board, but not the last. Jacksonville's two top receiving options, Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon, are both likely to be mid-draft selections, despite being tied to a miserable quarterback situation. (Details on that mess below.) Blackmon, as you might have heard, has been suspended for the first four games of the 2013 season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He obviously gets a draft-day downgrade, but please try to remember that no one ever won a fantasy title in September or October. Blackmon should be available in the most important weeks of the fantasy season. Don't take him off your board entirely. It's never easier to replace a player than in the opening weeks. While he's out, Jacksonville will likely roll with Mohamed Massaquoi; fantasy owners should probably roll with one of the hundreds of receivers who are better than Massaquoi.
Shorts was ridiculously useful last year, particularly when you consider the team context. He finished as the No. 21 per-game fantasy scorer among all receivers last season in standard leagues, hauling in 55 balls on 105 targets, gaining 979 yards and breaking the plane seven times. Shorts finished with at least 70 receiving yards in nine of his 14 games played, and he found success with both Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. He's a terrific mid-to-late round option, a guy who apparently won't be out-worked...
“Something is pushing him,” Gabbert said. “Every player has that something that drives them internally, but whatever he is doing is working.“You get it every day (that he is hungry). He comes out there with a chip on his shoulder, regardless of what type of practice it is or what type of game it is. You're going to get the same effort day in and day out."
...and who already has an excellent campaign on his resume. I'm in. Shorts is a WR of interest. The rest of the receiving options on Jacksonville's depth chart (including Marcedes Lewis, including Jordan Shipley), not so much.
Gabbert and Henne are staging a flyweight position battle at quarterback. The winner will be something like the 28th QB off the board in 20-team leagues. Don't be surprised if this competition drags well into the preseason. These are two passers who can't stay away from head-scratching throws, and who will likely toss as many picks as touchdown passes. Jacksonville's new regime — general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley — aren't tied to Gabbert, so he doesn't necessarily have a significant edge.
The Jags selected Michigan's Denard Robinson in the fifth round of April's draft, but he won't serve exclusively as a quarterback, if at all. He could be a sub-package player, a Wildcat threat, a receiver, or a total non-factor. Whatever else he is, Robinson isn't likely to be a fantasy factor. That won't stop at least two of my Wolverine friends from drafting him. (Idiots. They'd still draft Biakabutuka if we let 'em.)
The Jags defense ranked 30th against the run last season (141.0 YPG allowed) and dead-last in sacks (20), so this unit really has nowhere to go but up. Bradley is a defensive specialist (recently Seattle's DC), which means there's hope for the future, if not the present. Do not draft this D. Do not overload on this O, either.
2012 team stats: 15.9 points per game (30), 234.1 passing yards (19), 85.6 rushing yards (30)
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