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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Two for Tuesday: A-Rod's admission and the value of Maurice Jones-Drew

Alex Rodriguez.

Want to start an argument with a baseball fan? Mention those two dirty words.

Want to get a baseball writer to climb on his or her high horse? Do the same.

A-Rod -- or A-Roid, as he's known in the tabloids these days -- is constant back-page fodder and front-page controversy. His name is sure to incite emotion, and most of it is negative.

Has he lied? Yes. Is he a bad guy? I won't pretend to know the answer.

What I do know is he's one of those athletes who seems to attract negative reactions from a sizable portion of his sport's fan base no matter what -- think Kobe Bryant, Terrell Owens, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

He's also one of fantasy's most consistent performers, and if you're reading this, you're probably wondering how A-Rod's admission that he used performance-enhancing drugs from 2001-03 with Texas, and the firestorm that has followed, will affect his 2009 season in the Big Apple.

Sounds like the perfect Two-for-Tuesday topic.

1. What should we expect from Rodriguez this year?

The short answer: a .300-plus average with 35 or more home runs and at least 100 RBI.

In the last 11 seasons, Rodriguez's season lows are 35 homers (2008 and 2006) and 103 RBI (2008).

It is significant to note that both of those totals had a 2008 associated with them.

It is also significant that Rodriguez averaged 52 home runs and 132 RBI with the Rangers from 2001-03, the time frame in which he says he used steroids. In the last three seasons, all in New York, he's had one huge home-run year (54 in 2007) and two seasons with 35.

It's fair to assume we should lower our expectations for his power numbers. While doing so, keep these statistics in mind: 42 home runs, 123 RBI, 21 steals and a .303 batting average.

If you were guaranteed those numbers, where would you draft said player? First overall? Top three?

If you said yes, well those are A-Rod's five-year averages in New York, a time in which we are supposed to assume he was clean.

Whether or not you believe him is up to you. What shouldn't be up for debate: He's only 33, he hits for average and power, he drives in a lot of runs and he still steals 15 to 25 bases a year.

He's not the skinny 40-40 shortstop, circa 1998 in Seattle.

You don't have to like him. But don't let that stop you from drafting him.

Aside from shortstops Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes, there might not be a better fantasy option on draft day.

2. Maurice Jones-Drew just got a heck of a lot more valuable.

Monday, the Jaguars released Fred Taylor, their all-time leading rusher. Later that night, owners with Jones-Drew in keeper leagues realized just how good the news was.

In Jones-Drew's three NFL seasons, he's rushed for 2,533 yards on only 530 carries (4.8 yards per attempt) and caught 148 passes for 1,408 yards. He's scored 38 touchdowns while sharing carries with Taylor, and he's been a fantasy beast despite getting only 14.4 touches per game.

The latter number should at least reach the low 20s this season. If you factor in Jones-Drew's career average of 5.8 yards per touch, that should equate to about 120 yards a game.

In point-per-reception leagues, Jones-Drew should be a top-five or top-six running back this year. In the best-keeper blogs we posted last month, I ranked Jones-Drew No. 7 at running back, behind Adrian Peterson, Steve Slaton, Michael Turner, Matt Forte, DeAngelo Williams and Chris Johnson.

In leagues that start over every year, Jones-Drew might be a top-five back in PPR leagues, jumping ahead of Williams and Johnson.

The release of Taylor should force the Jags to finally give Jones-Drew his due.

As productive as he's been, he's never rushed for 1,000 yards or averaged more than 16.2 touches per game in a season.

That will change in 2009. Like A-Rod on the back page, and Derek Jeter and a young starlet in the gossip column, we can count on it.


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