Fantasy Football Sleeper: Rashad Jennings

      August 15, 2012 @ 17:37:11 PDT

Fantasy football drafting is mostly about finding the best value picks and minimizing risk in a game that is ripe with it. But we've already told you this - many times. To win your league, you'll have to stray from taking the safe route many, times, too.

Jacksonville Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew
MJD a bust?

It's up to you when you take those risks. Shoot, I recently took the leap with Darren McFadden with the sixth overall pick. He has to be the ultimate risk-reward commodity in fantasy football.

If you're searching for a nice sleeper running back, though, Jacksonville Jaguars rusher Rashad Jennings could be a nice find this year. Yes, I know Maurice Jones-Drew is still in town - well, actually, he's not yet due to a messy holdout - but Jennings is gaining favor with the coaching staff with each passing day MJD sits out.

None of the reports suggest that Jones-Drew or the Jaguars are close to settling on a new contract, either. The front office has been frustrated with his demands, but now it seems the coaching staff is becoming a bit impatient as well. Head coach Mike Mularkey won't commit to throwing MJD straight into the starting lineup if he returns closer to the regular season. Jones will need to prove he's in pristine game shape first, something that Mularkey knows MJD can't do by practicing and conditioning on his own.

It would be a huge shock if Jones-Drew and the team don't come to terms before Week 1, but this situation is turning into something eerily similar to what Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans went through in 2011. If you remember correctly, CJ2K was sluggish to start and never caught up, proving to be a very frustrating fantasy football No. 1 rusher.

Don't be surprised to see Mularkey give Jennings the lion's share of the carries in the first several weeks of the regular season, even if Jones-Drew is on the roster. Jones-Drew's career-high 1,606 rushing yards last season in a stagnant offense was impressive, but it'll be hard to replicate those numbers.

Jennings, obviously won't cost you much as a flier pick (he's going with the 175th overall selection per Mock Draft Central), but he could return some favorable stats early in the year. MJD, for a running back of such short stature, has plenty of miles on him, so an injury, especially since he may not be in peak physical condition, is entirely likely.

Despite the holdout, MJD remains a first-round talent when he's on the field and leading the Jags' O. But how willing are you to invest a precious first-round selection on him the further his holdout lasts? He's slipping to the late portion of the first round, and with some of the other options at running back at that point - DeMarco Murray, McFadden, Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles - I'm not so sure I'm ready to go after MJD.

If you retain faith in the short slasher, it would be wise to handcuff Jennings to Jones-Drew. Also, it would be prudent of you to ensure that your RB depth is strong.

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About Keith Hernandez

Keith, an editor with KFFL, joined the team as a Hot off the Wire analyst in 2008 and has been playing fantasy sports since 2005. He is involved in MLB, NFL and NASCAR content. He graduated from the University of California-San Diego in 2005 with a B.A. in Communications and was a four-year starter as a member of the baseball program.

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