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Spotlight: Steven Jackson

posted by Chris Smith on Aug 2nd


Chris Smith's thoughts

Steven Jackson is the quintessential veteran NFL running back. He is a leader on the field and in the locker room, has led the team in carries, yards, touchdowns and receptions by a running back in each of the past six seasons and has 1,744 total carries over that span. Last year he had 330 carries for the Rams while the next closest player had a paltry 34 carries. In 2009 he had 324 carries while the next closest running back had just 27. See a pattern here? It is the "Jackson Show" in the Rams backfield and he has done a lot playing on a terrible team the past few seasons. The blocking has been inconsistent, quarterback play erratic and not much else has gone right in St. Louis. However, with Sam Bradford looking like the real deal, perhaps the running lanes will begin to open up again for Jackson this year.

Jackson has been no worse than RB14 for each of the last six seasons:

Year RuYds Recs RecYds TDs FPTs RBRank
2005 1,046 43 320 10 197 11
2006 1,528 90 806 16 329 3
2007 1,002 38 271 6 169 14
2008 1,042 40 379 8 190 13
2009 1,416 51 322 4 198 10
2010 1,241 46 383 6 198 14

Not many players throughout history have enjoyed that level of consistency and success during a six-year window. He has displayed remarkable toughness, playing through injury after injury and a real tenacity when the ball is in his hands. He simply does not want to get tackled and fights for every last yard.

Heading into 2011, the Rams offensive talent appears to be turning a corner. The offensive line looks better than it has in years, Bradford is showing signs of being a strong NFL quarterback and there is an excellent battle at the receiver position. All of this points to the offense possibly turning a corner this season and doing better than the past few seasons.

Does the Rams improved offense help elevate Jackson to elite territory?

Jackson's wear and tear could be an issue: Jackson has played just seven NFL seasons and is already 40th all-time in carries. That is a ton of work over a short span and he has fought through some painful injuries over the past couple of seasons. Being a big back, it may be tough to keep playing at this level indefinitely. Logic would say he has another season or two at least before the inevitable decline but many big backs hit that wall sooner than later (Christian Okoye, Earl Campbell, etc.). At 229 pounds, he absorbs a lot of punishment.

Does Bradford's possible improvement help or hinder Jackson's output? If Bradford and the Rams anemic passing attack of the past few seasons improves in 2011, Jackson will likely find more running lanes to exploit, helping to raise his pedestrian 3.8 YPC average from last season. The Rams threw the ball underneath coverage almost exclusively allowing defenses to cheat up and load the box. That combined with nagging injuries for Jackson and it was tough sledding. The Rams moving the ball better this season could result in more touchdowns for Jackson as he had just ten combined touchdowns in the past two seasons.

Is the offensive line capable of opening holes on a consistent basis? While not an upper-tier group yet, the Rams offensive line is going the right direction. Their young talent is improving and this is the best offensive line the Rams have enjoyed in some time.

Rarely into elite territory. Jackson is an excellent running back but only once in his career has he reached the elite territory of upper-tier fantasy running backs. He finished as the 3rd best player back in 2006 but has normally slotted into a 'good' fantasy option and not a 'great' option.

Positives

  • Six straight top-fourteen fantasy seasons displays his talent and consistency
  • Best offensive line the Rams have put together in some time
  • Rams offense is turning the corner which will result in more opportunities for touchdowns

Negatives

  • Tons of carries equates to tons of wear and tear and injuries are starting to add up
  • His yards per carry last year dipped down to a career-low 3.8
  • He has scored just 22 rushing touchdowns over the past four seasons. That is a very low number when you look at the high number of carries he has racked up

Final thoughts

Steven Jackson is a hard-working, dedicated professional who gives the team everything in his gas tank. He is a leader on and off the football field and will get a ton of carries again this year. With the offensive line improving and the passing game coming around, there is a real opportunity for Jackson to crack inside the top-ten for only the 2nd time in his career. The caveat here is the wear and tear on his body. Will he hold up and continue to run the ball effectively or will the skills begin to erode?


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Iwannabeacowboybaby! said:

For Jackson's 1st time in his career, he rushed for under 4 yards per carry. I'm a little surprised by that because you'd think it would not go down when you add a passing threat like Sam Bradford into the mix but his rushing average did slip to 3.8 per carry last year. Personally, I think Jackson's ceiling is a solid RB2, gone are the days where you're hoping this guy turns into a top 5 back, he just doesn't score the Td's. He hasn't scored a receiving TD in 3 years and in the last 4 years only has 2 receiving Td's. In the rushing department in that same span, he hasn't reached 8 rushing TD's in a season. It's hard to be labeled elite when those numbers are the true realities. In leagues where you get bonuses for 100 yards rushing I'd give him a slight bump.

rowdywalker said:

I know SJax is not an elite Fantasy RB any more but I still think he is a low end #1.

At this point he has no competition for carries, although they will probably add someone hpefully Sproles which I think could help SJax with a better per carry average. If they dont add one then Jackson gets his yards just through plain weight of numbers. Last year defences were focused on stopping Jackson and were happy to see if the rookie QB could beat them with an average group of WRs. This year hopefully the WR group is healthy and has improved and Bradford has a years more experience and McDaniels O means D's will have to focus on that more. With that in mind I think SJax will have better numbers than last year.

fightingillini said:

Jackson is still a solid RB, with little competition for carries, and is a really good receiever. Still has good value in PPR leagues and you can get him in the 2nd round easily. Would be a great #2RB or as a lead back if you took someone like AJ in the first. STL offense should still improve with Bradford's upside, thus potentially giving Jackson more opportunities to score. Always have to worry about his injury history and mileage.


Steven Jackson projections

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Chris Smith30012508503750
Message board consensus29211867463631