Packers wide receiver James Jones is heading into his fourth NFL season, and recently there have been whispers that he could be taking over the starting gig opposite Greg Jennings. But what about Donald Driver, who has caught 70 or more balls for 1,000 or more yards in each of the last six seasons?
Upon reports that the 35-year-old had both knees scoped a couple weeks ago, many fantasy websites completely jumped the gun and started speculating that maybe he was closer to done than we thought. Other writers began touting Jones as his heir apparent, to the point where readers began asking me my thoughts on Jones, whose stats haven't been impressive the last two years. Is Jones a sleeper, like these other sites claim?
While I've been a fan of him since the preseason of his rookie year in 2007, I have a couple of fundamental issues with this recent spurt of "James Jones Hype."
1. Donald Driver Isn't Done
And he might not be done for a while. The guy is a freak. Yes, he had surgery on both of his knees, and yes, he's 35, but he only had his knees scoped. These were elective procedures that ultimately will help him perform this year, not prohibit him in any way. So what, he's not practicing in June — big whoop. He has already been cleared by team trainers and has told media that he feels great and wishes he would have had these procedures done years ago. Taking it a step further, he's made his intentions known that he actually wants to try and play until he's 40. While that's a little far-fetched, Driver is in good enough physical shape to put in a full-time load for at least one or two more seasons. He plays in the NFL's top-ranked passing offense and top-ranked overall offense, and he is a big reason why the unit is so effective. Driver is a strong possession receiver who can still make game-changing big plays, and the Packers — like the Cards did with Anquan Boldin — have a plethora of plays to get him the rock on snaps inside the 5-yard line.
2. Jordy Nelson Might Be Better Suited To Fill Driver's Role.
Jones WAS the heir apparent to Driver — that is, until the Packers selected 6-3 multitalented Jordy Nelson with the 37th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Either Jones wasn't cutting the mustard one year in, or Nelson was too good to pass up. I have a feeling it was the latter. While primarily being used in the return game, Nelson has shown flashes of brilliance as a wideout in his first two seasons. His stat line took a step back last year, but he also missed three games because of injury and had a tough time earning his way back on the field. While I currently have no inside track on the situation whatsoever, my money is on Nelson — not Jones — being Driver's replacement.
Overall, unless Jennings or Driver suffers an injury, there's no way that James Jones will be a starting WR in Green Bay in 2010. He might contribute as a WR3, but I would encourage fantasy owners to not even get too excited about this possibility. TE Jermichael Finley is a huge weapon, and even though Aaron Rodgers has the green light from Mike McCarthy to toss the rock early and often, Jones is fourth, at best, in the pecking order.
Despite the whispers about Driver and the hype about Jones, I caution owners not to overvalue the 26-year-old from San Jose State. While he's intriguing, he's nothing more than a deep, deep flier in dynasty leagues.
Paul Hickey is the lead contributor for Athlon Fantasy Football and operates the website NoOffseason.com, a 365-day resource for obsessive fantasy owners who eat, breathe and sleep fantasy football. While the site appeals to all fantasy heads, there is a special emphasis on dynasty formats and IDP leagues.