Julius a solid fantasy selection
In the Trenches: Luck of the Irish
May 19, 2004
By Michael Fabiano
Senior Fantasy Writer
The CBS.SportsLine.com Fantasy Football Commissioner is back! Click here for our special preseason offer and find out how you can win a trip to New York City to watch CBS' The NFL Today pregame show live! Hosted by Senior Fantasy Writer Michael Fabiano, you'll meet Gridiron Gurus Jim Nantz, Dan Marino and Boomer Esiason on the set!
The majority of the talk surrounding rookies this offseason has focused on the minicamp struggles of Eli Manning in New York, the potential of Kellen Winslow Jr. in Cleveland and the apprenticeship of Steven Jackson in St. Louis.
But the biggest story pertaining to Fantasy Football hasn't been Manning, Winslow or Jackson. In fact, the player that could make the biggest impact this season wasn't even selected in the first round of last month's draft.
That player is Julius Jones.
The Dallas Cowboys handed Jones the starting job with the release of Troy Hambrick, who was atop the team's depth chart in 2003. Jones, selected by the Cowboys with the 43rd overall pick, has the potential to emerge as a quality No. 2 running back in most leagues.
Since 1999, several rookie running backs have entered the regular season as a starter and thrived in the role. Texas product Ricky Williams posted quality numbers coming out of college, and Edgerrin James was an absolute stud for the Indianapolis Colts. LaDainian Tomlinson gave owners instant production in his rookie season of 2001, rushing for 1,236 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Julius Jones is the starting running back in Dallas. (Getty Images)
While Manning and Fitzgerald might have more long-term upside, Jones' status on the Cowboys depth chart makes him more valuable this season. Quarterbacks and wide receivers traditionally endure more growing pains in their transition from college to the pros, but running backs have demonstrated a tendency to thrive in the right situation.
Like Williams, James and Tomlinson, Jones appears to have landed in an incredible spot.
The Notre Dame product won't have to bear the burden of replacing the legendary Emmitt Smith, who helped lead Dallas to three Super Bowl championships in the 1990s. He will also gain valuable experience from head coach Bill Parcells, who has tutored such studs as Joe Morris, O.J. Anderson and Curtis Martin during his illustrious career.
The Tuna passed on Jackson in the draft to complete a deal with the Buffalo Bills, in part because of his interest in Jones. Parcells apparently coveted Julius, the brother of Chicago Bears back Thomas Jones, because of his athleticism and excellent work ethic.
Jackson, Kevin Jones and Tatum Bell might all have more keeper value, but they also have far more obstacles to overcome. Jackson has Marshall Faulk and Lamar Gordon ahead of him on the depth chart, Jones must compete with Artose Pinner and Shawn Bryson in Detroit, and Bell must pass Garrison Hearst and Quentin Griffin to gain a prominent role in Denver.
Parting ways with Hambrick further proves the confidence Parcells has in his rookie, especially with the lack of experienced backs on the roster. Aveion Cason and Eric Bickerstaff might push Jones during training camp, but there's little reason to believe his status in the backfield isn't secure.
Though Parcells will use Richie Anderson in certain sets, he should still give Jones enough carries to compile 1,000 rushing yards and six to eight touchdowns.