Win. Your. League.

Receive 3 Free Downloads More Details

Spotlight: Steven Jackson

posted by Chris Smith on Jul 15th


Chris Smith's thoughts

Steven Jackson has been a good fantasy running back throughout his eight year career but rarely a great one. In fact, he has just one Top 10 season in his NFL career and that was back in 2006 when he finished as the 3rd best fantasy back thanks to 1,528 rushing yards, 90 receptions (40 more than his next best season) and 16 touchdowns (6 better than his 2nd best effort). Without question those statistics are his high water mark and at age 29, he is unlikely to reach that level again in the near future.

Jackson's best asset has been consistency. In fact, he has finished as the 10th thru 14th best running back in each of the past five years. That really has been the career mantra of Jackson throughout -- Good but not great.

His statistics from 2004 to 2011:

  • 2140 carries
  • 9102 rushing yards
  • 52 rushing touchdowns
  • 368 receptions
  • 2995 receiving yards
  • 8 receiving touchdowns

Only 20 NFL players since 1961 have had 2000+ carries, 300+ reception careers so Jackson is in very special company. Of those 20 players, Steven Jackson is ranked 14th in fantasy points per touch (combined carries and receptions) and just 17th in touchdowns per touch (carries and receptions). However, just to be ranked in the top-20 in this study is a very impressive feat.

He has had a strong NFL career but can he continue to perform at this level?

THE BIG CAVEAT TO BE AWARE OF WITH STEVEN JACKSON
Jackson is a big running back at 6'2" and 233 pounds. He has some elusiveness which helps him to avoid some contact on game day but larger running backs typically absorb more punishment than smaller, quicker running backs simply because there is more of them to hit.

Some past comparisons to Steven Jackson include:

  • Eddie George: was a 1000-yard rusher until his 9th season when he fell off the map
  • Earl Campbell: retired after 8th year
  • Jamal Lewis: was a 1000-yard rusher until his 9th season when he fell to injury and retired
  • Shaun Alexander: Did nothing in his 9th season and then retired

All of these running backs were large, talented runners who hit the wall in a hurry in their 9th season or prior and disappeared from football. There are many more examples than the above as well.

For a running back, wear and tear can add up in a hurry and Jackson has absorbed a lot of punishment behind some terrible Rams offensive line play over the past few years. With almost 2,400 touches over seven years (not counting his rookie campaign with less work), he has been crunched over and over again. Will that punishment take its toll on him this season and beyond? It is difficult to say for sure but without question there are multiple past examples to at least be aware of when projecting his statistics this season.

OTHER CONCERNS TO HIGHLIGHT

1) The replacement has been drafted: Much like Steven Jackson stepped in and took touches away from veteran Marshall Faulk as a rookie for the Rams back in 2004, the Rams have drafted explosive Isaiah Pead from Cincinnati University in the 2nd round this season. Pead is a talented player and he is the first running back on the roster during the Jackson Era capable of eating into his touches. While Jackson is likely to lead the team in carries again, the backup's workload will likely be larger than it has since Jackson's rookie season.

2) Still a questionable offensive line: For a few years now, the Rams offensive line play has ranged from below average to putrid. There is some talent to plug into the starting five but that has been true for some time now and the group simply has not been able to elevate their play with any sort of consistency.

3) Below par rushing touchdowns: Despite 915 carries over the past three seasons, Jackson has only rushed for a combined 15 rushing touchdowns. In his entire career, he has managed to finish with over 8 rushing touchdowns only once.

Positives

  • He has been remarkably consistent throughout his NFL career
  • He has managed to rush for over 1,000 yards in each of his NFL seasons aside from his rookie campaign despite subpar offensive line play and some brutally bad passing attacks
  • Has a nice blend of size, vision and durability

Negatives

  • He has reached the point of no return for many 'larger' running backs. The wear and tear catches up to bigger backs quickly and they often fall off the map before you can blink
  • He may find himself competing for playing time with talented rookie running back Isaiah Pead. Jackson has not really had much competition for touchdown over the past several seasons
  • Offensive line play has been shoddy over the past few seasons and there is no guarantee it will be improved in 2012

Final thoughts

Steven Jackson has been a good player on an awful team over the past several years. He plays hard, runs with conviction, has nice vision and has had himself a very good NFL career. There are two questions that could impact his statistics this season.

A) Will age and especially carries catch up to him in 2012?
B) Is Isaiah Pead ready to step in and take some of the workload from Jackson this season?

If either of those answers is 'YES' for this season then his production will take a hit. I believe both of those are a possibility so project Jackson's statistics very conservatively in 2012.


Quotations from the message board thread

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

butcher boy said:

Interesting guy to project. Last year saw his YPC jump back closer to his career average, but his carries dropped sharply to 260. He's also getting to that age where you start to see declining numbers. He has nobody behind him that poses much of a threat to steal carries like Caddy last year, however, which keeps his value fairly elevated.

Chase Stuart (Footballguys.com Staff Writer) said:

Jackson will only be 29 next month, so I don't see age as a huge issue in redraft leagues. What's amazing is how consistent he has been over the last four years, especially as a fantasy player.

Eventually, you have to assume the Rams will be able to score points on offense. They've ranked 26th or worse every year since Jackson's breakout year in 2006. He was a monster that year, but the offense just can't sustain him anymore. The talent is there, but he has a miserable supporting cast.

We Tigers said:

1000+ yards rushing for 7 straight seasons--2 of which were only 12 games long for him. A rushing average above 4.1 YPC every year but one. 300+ receiving yards every year but one. Three seasons of 15, 16, and 15 games have turned Steven Jackson from "injury prone" to missing fewer games than the league average at RB. The only thing missing: touchdowns. I do expect Pead to get a decent workload, but even 80-100 carries won't make a huge dent.

The price on Jackson this year is downright great. End of the second round for the most consistent RB in the league? I'll take it. I'm not even expecting that huge a bump in his numbers this year (though I do expect a bounce-back year from Sam Bradford and the Rams in general), but I'll take it.

FF Ninja said:

As someone who dealt Alexander for SJax after the 2005 season I am all too familiar with steep declines as well as Jackson's talent. But I'm not expecting a steep decline for Jackson. Given Fisher's use of Eddie George, I expect SJax to get plenty of carries even if his ypc drops from last year. And should Bradford stay healthy it is hard to imagine him performing as poorly as last year, so there is hope for this offense.

I know age/mileage will be the main sticking point for many, which is why he is dropping to 27th overall (RB14) in redrafts, but health is always an issue with this guy. Even when he plays 15-16 games, it seems like he's playing injured for half of them. For instance, just looking at his games 1-8/9-16 splits, here are his ypc numbers for the last few years:

2011: 5.1/3.9
2010: 3.9/3.6
2009: 4.8/4.0

As one of his biggest fans, I just don't know that I'll be able to pull the trigger this year. Even with all the injuries and missed time, he has finished between RB10 and RB14 each of the last 5 years so a RB14 price tag in a Jeff Fisher offense sounds quite reasonable, but if he is hobbling through your FF playoffs, that doesn't do you much good. But if he can stay healthy and the offense is finally decent (they've been bottom feeders the entire duration of those RB10-RB14 finishes) then there's no reason he can't have a top 10 season. The only thing missing has been touchdowns. In those 5 years, he has put up 83.6 rushing yards per game and 24 receiving yards per game. Regular season equivalents of 1338 and 384. Really, really good numbers, but GREAT number if you consider his team (I couldn't resist looking it up).

StL offensive rank
2011: 32nd
2010: 26th
2009: 32nd
2008: 31st
2007: 28th

The year he finished RB3, they ranked 10th. If this guy was on a real offense he would be talked about in the same light as LT. But that doesn't help us in 2012. I'm predicting Fisher uses him early and often but he still doesn't see the endzone a lot. Really not sure how to predict his receptions. Is Pead going to see time on third down to keep Jackson fresh?


Steven Jackson projections

RSHRSHYDRSHTDRECRECYDRECTD
Chris Smith2309404322250
Message board consensus27911547433281