As training camps begin, the folly of writing fantasy football preview features becomes painfully apparent. As I write this, Dennis Pitta and Jeremy Maclin have been reported as out for the season, and the same fate is increasingly possible for Percy Harvin. The interim between the time I write this article and the time it appears on this website will probably contain plenty more huge football stories. By the time you read this Tom Brady could quit football and run for dictator of Qatar.
I haven’t gotten to the Seattle Seahawks or Philadelphia Eagles, yet, but the Pitta news hits these columns especially hard seeing as how only a few days ago I projected him to be the No. 3 tight end in fantasy. While part of me likes the fact that nobody will get the chance to challenge this bold claim, more than anything else I realize that with the fluid nature of training camp, breaking news can render an entire fantasy column moot. This is why I’m employing a new feature were I will revise my previous fantasy analysis when huge news breaks. I must be watching too much of The Newsroom, because it’s time for the “Hindsight Bias.”
Hindsight Bias: So far, Pitta’s injury is the only story that warrants the revision of a previous article. I’ve already advised against drafting Joe Flacco and this injury hurts his stock even more. The loss of Pitta will cause the average draft position of Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones to rise, meaning they will be even more disappointing to anyone who drafts them. Ed Dickson is bad, but he’s still worth a late-round flier because all of Boldin and Pitta’s targets have to go somewhere. Ray Rice will face greater defensive attention, but more checkdowns will balance that out, and Bernard Pierce is still an elite handcuff who is a borderline flex play even when Rice is healthy.
I intentionally chose today to dedicate column space to the introduction of this new feature because I figure shortchanging the Jacksonville Jaguars will make people the least upset, since not even their own fans can be troubled to show up for home games. They’re coming off a terrible 2-14 season and don’t seem like a good bet to improve much on that mark. Maurice Jones-Drew is getting older and wearing down from overuse, Blaine Gabbert is a bust, Justin Blackmon has a four-game suspension, and in seven seasons Marcedes Lewis has been worthless for six of them. This team is a complete and total mess, but there may prove to be a couple of fantasy diamonds in the rough. After all, Happy Gilmore is hilarious. If the pile of black vomit that is Adam Sandler’s filmography is capable of producing something worthwhile, surely the Jaguars can pull it off, too. So without further ado: Should you draft him?
(Average Draft Position = ADP. Figures are based on current data from 12-team standard league drafts. Players with added or decreased points per reception appeal will be noted, and defenses and kickers are ignored because they are defenses and kickers.)
Blaine Gabbert/Chad Henne (ADP: Undrafted):
I’m not going to insult your intelligence by explaining at length why you should draft Gabbert or Henne, but it is worth noting that the presently open competition between the two actually carries fantasy significance. Last season in seven Henne starts the Jaguars averaged 18.3 points per game and 267 passing yards per contest. Under nine Gabbert starts they averaged 13.5 points per game and 182 passing yards. In real life, other factors come together to make the quarterback competition closer than those numbers would indicate, but in fantasy all Jacksonville receiving targets clearly become more valuable with Henne under center. No one should seriously consider either quarterback as a fantasy starter, but watch this situation closely, because it will have a significant effect on the value of Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts.
Should you draft him?
Maurice Jones-Drew (ADP: 18th Overall):
If it’s late in Round 2 and Jones-Drew is the top running back left on the board, I feel like I have to take him. Believe me, I don’t want to. I cannot possibly feel good about using a precious second-round draft pick on a player who had more offensive touches than any other from 2009-11 and spent 2012 suffering through a brutal Lisfranc injury (which is not to be confused with the fun kind). His average draft position and fantasy viability are in a fluid state at the moment, as we don’t yet know the extent to which he has recovered from the injury.
Assuming he’s a full go, he’s undeniably risky, but he’s also one year removed from being the league’s rushing leader. He filleted the Indianapolis Colts to the tune of 177 yards last season, and until last year’s foot injury he was one of the most durable starting backs in the game. Let’s put it this way: If you pass on taking Jones-Drew as a starting running back because you don’t like the risk, you’re instead going to settle for the likes of the older equal injury risk Reggie Bush, 30-year old passing game non-factor Frank Gore, injury-prone DeMarco Murray, Lamar Miller, never had a healthy season in his life and is coming off a 3.3 yards per carry season Darren McFadden, and one fumble away from spending the next six weeks on the bench David Wilson. When you look at it like that, Jones-Drew is actually not that risky, in a lesser of many evils sort of way.
Should you draft him?