Apr 092014

Maurice Jones-Drew has seen a steep fall from his 2011 season, in which he led the NFL with 1606 rushing yards. That season, he averaged 4.7 yards per carry on 343 carries, added 43 catches for 374 yards and scored 11 times. He did all of that on an otherwise abysmal offense during Blaine Gabbert’s rookie year, which makes it all the more impressive. That off-season, he demanded a contract that would have paid him among the best running backs in the NFL, holding out almost into the season when the Jaguars didn’t meet his demands.

It turns out that not paying him was one of the best moves the Jaguars have made over the past 5 years. After a 1084 touch workload from 2009-2011, MJD cracked in 2012, managing just 84 carries over 6 years, though he did average 4.8 yards per carry. 2013 was arguably worse as he averaged just 3.4 yards per carry on 234 carries, scored just 5 times on 277 touches, and had just 5 touches go for 20+ yards. One a candidate to be the highest paid running back in the NFL on his next contract, MJD was met with a frigid market as a free agent going into his age 29 season, signing this 3 year, 7.5 million dollar deal with the Raiders that has just 2.5 million over 1 year guaranteed.

MJD’s rough 2013 season could be largely the result of the complete lack of offensive talent, and thus running room, around him in Jacksonville. However, he averaged just 2.2 yards after contact, broke just 26 tackles, and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst running back in terms of pure running grade. Now going into his age 29 season with 2139 career touches, he’s unlikely to get more explosive going into 2014.

He’ll be an asset for the Raiders in passing downs because he still has strong pass catching and pass blocking skills, catching 43 passes and grading out above average on Pro Football Focus in both pass catching grade and pass blocking grade, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd best running back in pass blocking grade. He’s probably a worse pure runner than Darren McFadden, but he’ll still contribute for the Raiders in some form.

He’ll make up an underwhelming running back tandem with McFadden as both running backs have lost a great deal of explosiveness over the past 2 seasons due to injury, but this is a fairly inexpensive deal. It’s a solid value when you compare it to other deals received by running backs this off-season, including Darren McFadden (1 year, 4 million), Joique Bell (3 years, 9.3 million), Donald Brown (3 years, 10.5 million), Ben Tate (2 years, 7 million), Knowshon Moreno (1 year, 3 million), LeGarrette Blount (2 years, 3.85 million), and Rashad Jennings (4 years, 14 million) this off-season.

Grade: B+

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