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Jags: David Garrard out, Trent Edwards in

12/29/2010

I had planned on making Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard my No. 5 option at the position for Week 17, and I certainly felt justified in going out on that limb. Garrard has played consistently well this season; he's just outside the top 10 in quarterback scoring this season, has double digits in eight consecutive games and averaged 19 points over the past three games. Plus, the Jaguars are scheduled to face the gift that keeps on giving this season, the Houston Texans' leaky pass defense. Merry Christmas, indeed!

Of course, with Wednesday's unfortunate news that Garrard will have surgery on his right middle finger, I was left to ponder where former Buffalo Bills underachiever Trent Edwards belonged among my top 25 quarterbacks. Yep, Garrard is gone, but Edwards still gets to face those same Texans. Well, maybe you want your fantasy championship decided by Trent Edwards, but I stopped short of giving him a promising rank. It is, however, amazing and a bit disconcerting that Edwards is my No. 20 quarterback.

With Garrard out of the picture, this would seem to place even more importance on stud running back Maurice Jones-Drew suiting up for a game the Jaguars must win. The Indianapolis Colts can wrap up the AFC South and the resulting playoff berth by beating the Tennessee Titans, but should Peyton Manning and Co. fall short -- nothing is a given, not after the way the Minnesota Vikings played in Philly on Tuesday -- then Edwards and the Jaguars can earn the right to keep playing by topping the Texans. I just don't think Edwards will be asked to do what Garrard normally does, and he's just not as talented. I think Jones-Drew will play, and play well.

Fantasy owners might have forgotten about Jones-Drew, whose sore knee forced him to the sidelines in Week 16, an inopportune time for his owners. Truth be told, I have no special insight as to his Week 17 availability. He did not practice Wednesday, but that's all I know. I just have to think this guy will be out there some way or another, especially in light of the quarterback situation and the fact that backup Rashad Jennings didn't exactly step up in the team's Week 16 loss to the Washington Redskins, rushing 15 times for 32 yards. Jones-Drew really needs to be given 20-plus touches for the Jags to win, and I would have a difficult time sitting fantasy's No. 10 running back (following the missed game) against such a soft opponent.

The question for fantasy owners, of course, becomes how much Jones-Drew should be trusted. I admit I've wavered a bit on this. He safely made my top 10, but certainly if there remains this much question about his availability, then he isn't anywhere close to 100 percent. I ended up with Jones-Drew at No. 8, a hedge of sorts, but then again, I like Arian Foster, Michael Turner, Steven Jackson, Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Ray Rice and Rashard Mendenhall better for this week. Some may view Jones-Drew at only No. 8 as a slap in the face, but coming off a missed week, I think it shows confidence as well. Perhaps it's not quite the level we had a few weeks ago when Jones-Drew was ripping off consistent 100-yard performances, but this is still a top-shelf player. By the way, if Jones-Drew does sit, I think Jennings is going to bounce back nicely; I'd rank him near my top 20 as a starter.

As for the Jaguars wide receivers, none of whom are elite fantasy options in the first place -- though tight end Marcedes Lewis is safely in my top 10 each week -- I dropped Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas only slightly after the Garrard news came out. Sims-Walker is a bit maddening to trust, but the talent is there. Thomas is coming off his second-best fantasy game of the season, making my rank of No. 44 a bit harsh, but then again, I think Jones-Drew will carry the weight of this team's offense.