I promise this is the last one that I post
PROSE and CONS > Thomas Jones, RB, Chi (2004)
Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - Scot Porter and Bob Lung
Scot takes the PROSE and Bob takes the CONS as they tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Thomas Jones
By Scot Porter
New Chicago Bears running back, Thomas Jones, is one of the more intriguing fantasy players heading in to this season. Since being drafted out of Virginia by the Arizona Cardinals in 2000 he has had the “potential break out” tag pinned on him more times than you can count. There is no doubting the gifts that he has. He has great speed, decent size, good hands and can ably block the occasional blitzing linebacker. With all that going for him, what is it that has held him back from emerging as a top tier running back? Well, for one, he played for the completely inept Arizona Cardinals for the first three years of his career and had to split carries with the equally capable Michael Pittman. With the signing of Emmitt Smith and the emergence of Marcel Shipp in AZ, Jones was traded to Tampa Bay to serve as insurance if Michael Pittman were to miss some time for his off-field, ahem, indiscretions. After weeks on the sidelines and infrequent playing time Jones broke out with a big game in week 14 and started the remainder of the year where he averaged 91 yards a game and showed the potential many had waited so long to see. Seeing as most all of his 627 yards rushing and 180 receiving yards came in the last 4 games of the year, you can see why a team would want to take a chance on him.
Fast forward to 2004 and the new regime in Chicago where Lovie Smith and co. have taken the chance on making Thomas Jones their starting running back and have implemented a system that seems ripe for Jones’ skills. The offense is now geared in the same way as Kansas City and St Louis and we all know how two guys named Faulk and Holmes have succeeded under these spread-type offenses. The Bears have worked to improve their offensive line and are more settled at their quarterback position than they were last year. The Bears are definitely a team on the rise and Thomas Jones will be the focus of it all.
That being said, it is still hard to ignore Jones’ last couple of years as being labeled as a disappointment and, if you were a former owner of Jones like me, you may have his recent struggles fresh in your mind. Ignore all that. He has talent. He has never been the main focus of an offense before. He has never been in a system that will feature the running back as much as Chicago will use him this year. All signs point to him being a true break out candidate and I wouldn’t miss the boat on him this year. Of course, he still shouldn’t be considered a #1 fantasy running back, but you will be able to grab him in the lower end of the second tier and you will be happier than a pig in, well, you know, that you decided to take a chance on him.
By Bob Lung
The world of opportunity! Many times it is truly just being in the right place and the right time. Add in the right person seeing you perform at that time doesn’t hurt either!
Thomas Jones was obviously being watched by the Chicago Bears, during the last four games of the 2003 season, as he replaced Michael Pittman in the Tampa Bay offense. His numbers were very good in those games (84 carries, 364 yards, 4.3 yards per carry, 77 yards receiving and 1 touchdown). The Bears would be implementing the West Coast offense in 2004 and felt that Jones, NOT their current running back, Anthony Thomas, fit that offensive style better and signed him for $10.5 million over four years.
Many fantasy owners salivated when they heard Jones would be in an offense similar to St. Louis and Kansas City. Visions of Sugarplums, Marshall Faulk and Priest Holmes danced in their heads! Is he the next Priest Holmes, who came out of nowhere to be the savior for many fantasy teams, over the last two seasons?
Many have said yes, his situation is similar to Holmes. Well, I kind of disagree. Yes, Jones was a top pick out of college, but he has never rushed for more than the 627 yards last season and remember, he only had that many because Pittman was out the last four games. Holmes did have a 1,000+ yards in his second season for Baltimore in 1998, before getting hurt and missing eight games in 1999. He went to Kansas City in 2000.
Also, the Chiefs have always had a proven quarterback in Trent Green, a great offensive line and a top tight end in Tony Gonzalez, surrounding Holmes. Thomas Jones does have a very good offensive line, but have an unproven quarterback in Rex Grossman and a good, but not great tight end in Desmond Clark. Again, not as similar.
Another point to note, Thomas Jones had his big games last season against four teams in the lower third defensively and all of them were out of the playoff race.
What this leads to is a reduction of expectations for Jones in 2004. Jones could have a very good year. However, the risk involved with picking Jones any sooner than you’re #3 running back is extremely high. He certainly has the talent and opportunity to excel, but the risk is just too high for taking him as a #2 back. If you can grab him as your #3 back in the mid to late rounds, I recommend it. Anything before that, I would pass for something a little risky.