For the 3rd year in a row, Maurice Jones-Drew is entering training camp season with serious question marks. In 2011, there were serious worries about his knees before he produced a very valuable fantasy season. Last year, he held out until the bitter end, trying to earn one last big paycheck. That story ended with a severe foot injury that he still hasn’t quite recovered from. The last Rotoworld Blurb on Jones-Drew’s recovering Lisfranc injury has him likely starting camp on the PUP list. Given an already existing injury condition, it seems pretty insane to me that Justin Forsett has an ADP of RB85. That’s behind stiffs like Beanie Wells and Michael Turner, who don’t even have teams!
What makes Forsett valuable in my mind is that he is the clear handcuff. The other running backs on the Jaguars roster are Denard Robinson, Jordan Todman and De’Leon Eskridge. While it’s probably not likely than any NFL team would give Forsett a starting job on his own merits, he has proven that he can hang at the NFL level. Robinson is entirely unproven. The most recent update from the coaching staff has Robinson slotted for 10-15 snaps per game, which is probably not going to change, even if MJD goes down. If Jones-Drew is unable to recover from his Lisfranc injury properly, or gets hurt again, it’s highly unlikely that the Jaguars would turn the offense entirely over to Denard. For what it’s worth, Forsett has never graded out as a net negative in the pass blocking game, per PFF.
Here is a table of Forsett’s NFL production:
What immediately leaps out to me about Forsett’s career statistics were the 74 combined receptions in 2009 and 2010. Not only did he average 5.4 yards per carry in 2009 and 4.4 in 2010 as a part-time player for the Seahawks, but he was talented enough to play on 3rd downs and catch passes. That eliminates the absolute need to have another back on the roster, as Forsett would only have to come off for breathers in the event of an MJD injury, not because he was incapable of anything. As I have previously written, Robinson has struggled at catching the ball, pass blocking and running pass routes, and Jordan Todman has exactly 4 career touches for 8 yards. Todman is such a non-entity that he couldn’t get on the field for the Jaguars after Jones-Drew, Rashad Jennings and Jalen Parmele all got hurt; instead, he lost touches to fullback Montell Owens and camp body Richard Murphy, who isn’t even on an NFL roster right now.
Somewhat surprinsgly, Forsett isn’t terrible in the redzone. Between 2009-10, when Forsett was actually part of an offense, he converted 12.96% of his total redzone touches into touchdowns. For comparisons sake, over that same time frame, Marshawn Lynch converted 13.5% of his redzone touches into touchdowns, and Maurice Jones-Drew converted 19.2% of his redzone looks in his fully healthy 2011 season. The continuing theme is that while not elite, Forsett is at least capable. The argument here isn’t that Forsett is some super-handcuff like Bernard Pierce or Ben Tate; instead, I’m merely pointing out that he is the only proven NFL runner behind a creaky, 28 year old running back with 1,862 career touches.
The only threat to Forsett’s status as one of the clearest handcuffs in the NFL would be a veteran runner like Willis McGahee signing with the Jags. Out of all of the running backs on the market, only McGahee could really come in and beat out Forsett right away. Kevin Smith, Beanie Wells, Cedric Benson and Michael Turner don’t scare me at all. Forsett is younger than all of those guys, and at this point in their careers, probably just a better football player. Signing a veteran like that would simply be an insurance move, and not one to worry about from a fantasy perspective.
The case for Forsett is really pretty simple: He has shown promise as an NFL runner, with two seasons over 149 touches, and is truly the only other reasonable option on the roster. The Jaguars bringing Beanie Wells in for a workout would seem to indicate that they realize this. Denard Robinson, as physically talented as he may be, is not ready to carry the load of an offense yet, and lacks the necessary pass blocking and receiving skills to get on the field to do so. Jordan Todman and the other camp bodies are just that; camp bodies. Forsett’s NFL track record and Maurice Jones-Drew’s injury history tell me that his current draft position leave him massively undervalued. When considering the relative price of other clear handcuff situations, Forsett will likely be a player on many of my 2013 redraft teams.