With JC Superstar fully entrenched as the back of the future, Thomas Jones could very well be one and done in KC. Soon to be 33 years old, TJ is due $3 million in 2011 and showed that he might have one foot in the NFL grave after averaging a paltry 2.3 YPC in the final month of the 2010 season. The Chiefs are fully invested in Charles in Charge after signing the 24 year old to a 6 year, $28 million deal in December.
Jones was the 7th overall pick by Arizona in the 2000 draft. He is the last remaining first round RB from his draft class still in the NFL as fellow first rounders Jamal Lewis, Ron Dayne, Shaun Alexander and Trung Candidate are long gone. The shelf life for most NFL running backs is 4-5 years but Jones rigorous offseason conditioning program allowed him to finish his 11th NFL season in 2010. Jones has been a model of durability only missing three games over the past 8 seasons. He has also defied the laws of physics when it comes to prolonged productivity, as 2010 marked the first season that TJ was held under 1,000 yards since 2004. Jones appeared to have found the fountain of youth with the Jets posting elite fantasy numbers by topping 1,300 yards in both 2008 and 2009 while amassing an impressive 27 TDs. However, father time seems to have finally caught up to him as Jones first season in Arrowhead ended with his lowest yardage total since 2003 as he finished with 896 yards (56 yards/game) and six TDs making him nothing more than a Flex option for fantasy owners.
Jamaal Charles enjoyed a true breakout season in 2010 and should be a first round fantasy pick in most leagues in 2011. The dual threat is potentially top 5 worthy in PPR leagues (averaged 42 catches over the past two seasons). The 3rd year RB from the University of Texas finished with over 1,900 total yards and his lack of TDs (8 total) is the only factor limiting him from being mentioned in a class with AP and Chris Johnson. We fully expect the Chiefs to use Charles more in the red zone in 2011 , which will greatly limit the need/fantasy value for Thomas Jones. We expect KC to expand the running playbook for Dexter McCluster next season (especially if they add a WR via the draft) which would cut into Jones workload and make him further expendable.
In 2009, Scott Pioli took over the Kansas City front office and Todd Haley was installed as head coach. They returned KC to the playoffs for the first time since 2007 on the shoulders of the leagues’ #1 ranked rushing offense (164 yards/game). If the Chiefs plan to advance past the first round, they will need to rely on two of the better playmakers in the NFL in Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe. If Thomas Jones believes that he still has the skill set to succeed as a starting RB in the NFL , he would benefit by taking his game to a team that doesn’t boast arguably one of the top 5 running backs in the league.
Not many teams are without a #1 RB but this draft draft class lacks a top 10 talent meaning that many teams looking to add depth might go the free agent / trade route.
Miami: Ronnie and Ricky are both free agents and Miami will likely go in a different direction after finishing 21st in run offense in 2010. If Miami doesn’t use their #15 pick on Marc Ingram, Jones could step in and be given a chance as a stopgap option.
Detroit: The Lions run game ranked 23rd in the NFL as first round pick Javhid Best was hampered by injuries all season raising questions as the whether he is a true #1 running back. Pairing the 5’10, 195 pound Best with veteran Thomas Jones would make sense as a way to keep Best healthy down the stretch.
Chicago: The Bears struggled in short yardage situations as Chester Taylor proved that he wasn’t a strong options as a goal line back. If the Bears draft don’t a power running back to compliment Forte, they may decide bringing back 33 year old Thomas Jones (played in Chicago 2004-2006) is a better fit than Chester Taylor (averaged only 2.4 YPC in 2010).
Arizona: A return to where his career began in Arizona is a possibility as the Cardinals finished at the bottom of the league in rushing offense (87 yards/game). Beanie Wells will likely be given a chance to redeem himself after a disappointing sophomore season but adding a vet like Jones as a role model would be advisable. Wells has the skill set to become a #1 RB but would benefit from TJ’s conditioning program as nagging injuries have limited Wells career so far. Tim Hightower was less than impressive and could be on his way out as he is a restricted free agent.