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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thomas Jones Continues to Defy the Odds

A running back’s career ends at 30. Just ask Eddie George, or better yet, find out from Eric Dickerson. But don’t bother telling Thomas Jones that, for his career followed the highly improbable path of flourishing the later he got in his career. In many respects, Thomas Jones’ career path has been the inverse of the typical running back’s development. Somehow at 32-years-old, TJ is still getting it done in the NFL.

It’s hard to believe it, but Kansas City Chiefs running back Thomas Jones actually started off his career as a bust with the Arizona Cardinals. Selected 7th overall in the 2000 draft, Jones had three lackluster seasons in Arizona before heading to Tampa Bay for a season. He didn’t do much in his second stop, and it wasn’t until Jones was picked up by the Bears that he flashed the talent and ability which originally made him a first-round pick.

Though TJ was blowing up with the Bears, it was likely his poor showing in Phoenix that had me doubting Jones’ skill. Finally, in 2005, I became a believer after watching Jones tough it out week after week. Thomas would be listed as questionable on the injury report almost every single week, often with foot or ankle injuries, and he’d be listed as a game-time decision. No matter how hobbled he was or how little he practiced, the guy always suited up! And he didn’t just suit up; he would rack up 120 yards and score a touchdown or two.

My buddy Andre had Thomas Jones in fantasy that year and was forever hooked. It’s that type of toughness and dedication that made Jones such an inspirational player and favorite within the Bears’ locker room, to the point that players were trying to hurt Cedric Benson to make sure Thomas Jones got the looks. The Bears eventually got rid of Jones to make room for Benson (who became a total bust in Chicago), but the Jets quickly pounced.

It was in New York, eight years after he was drafted out of Virginia, that Thomas Jones had his finest seasons in the NFL. He rushed for 1,300 and 1,400 yards in back-to-back seasons, scoring double-digit touchdowns each year. Figuring they had sucked the lemon dry, the Jets let Jones walk in free agency (for another 30-year-old who has defied the odds).

Knowing full well that strength, conditioning, and toughness was Jones’ specialty, the Chiefs pounced. Scott Pioli pissed off many a fantasy owner with the Jones signing, as most people felt Thomas would only block the path of emerging star, Jamaal Charles. They were wrong.

Enter Andre back into the picture. After taking a five-year hiatus from fantasy football, Dre joined our league this year. He worked his way through spreadsheets full of stats and did his proper preparation. Regardless, when it came down to the bang-bang decisions on draft day, he went with names with which he was familiar.

Employing such a strategy when it’s been five years between playing fantasy football is generally a formula for last place (anyone know where I can find Frank Wycheck?).

Just like the Chiefs, Andre decided to go with a name he could trust relatively early in the draft, and he selected Thomas Jones. Naturally Andre was on the receiving end of many a internet laugh. But guess what? Jones has been nothing but a success as he has now rushed for 538 yards on the season. He has three 100-yard games to his credit and three TDs. Nobody would have predicted Jones’ success at age 32, but at this point the odds should be overwhelming if you bet against him.



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