Maurice Jones-Drew had a 38-day holdout, missed training camp, missed preseason and as Week 1 is upon us, he is expected to be a third-down back for Jacksonville at Minnesota today.
So what do we do with the league’s returning leading rusher (1,606 yards), who also missed the 2011 preseason after a knee injury and went out and did what he did on the bum knee the rest of the season?
You play MJD as a flex.
Like his counterpart across the field, Adrian Peterson, who, if he plays, is also said to be on a limited snap count as he comes back from a torn ACL and MCL, these two are going to be needed to win the opening game for their team.
MJD is healthy, and while he may not be in “football shape,” there are statistical advantages for him if he is reserved to a third-down role — which is unlikely that’s all it is if he is active.
The Vikings were 14th-best against fantasy running backs last season at 21 points per game but were tied for ninth with the fewest rushing touchdowns allowed (eight). Where it becomes interesting in regards to Jones-Drew’s role as potentially only a third-down back is what he can do as a receiver and what Minnesota allowed RBs to do as receivers last season.
The Vikings allowed five receiving touchdowns to backs last season — tied for second-most in the league — and MJD had three receiving touchdowns last season — tied for second-most in the league. His three scores came in back-to-back weeks against San Diego and Tampa Bay in Weeks 13 and 14
Jones-Drew caught his last two scoring passes from Blaine Gabbert on third-and-four plays from the 5. His receiving TD against San Diego came on a second-and-eight from the 9.
If the Jags get near the goal line, chances are it is MJD that is either punching it in or catching a pass and taking it in to the end zone.
Gabbert threw 12 touchdown passes last season — five coming from inside the 10; MJD caught three of them. Gabbert threw nine of the 12 inside the red zone. MJD caught three of them and five of the other six are by players no longer on active rosters.
Of MJD’s eight rushing touchdowns, six came from inside the 6, one from 10 and the other from 21 in the season opener.
That’s 10 of his 11 scores coming from inside the 10 — and he accounted for 11 of the team’s 21 offensive scores last season.
It depends on what you want from a flex in regards to points, but the potential for a 12-point day in limited work is pretty appealing.
—Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter