Steven Jackson is about to complete a full decade as a premier RB in the NFL. And after his nine seasons as an absolute gladiator for the Rams, he has already generated over 10,000 yards (10,135) and 56 TDs during his career. He also accumulated 2,395 carries, while absorbing extensive punishment throughout the process. That includes 257 rushing attempts last season, when he collected 1,042 yards, scored four TDs, and participated in all 16 regular season contests. That outcome also rewarded fantasy owners that selected him 14th among all RBs during the 2012 drafts. That collective decision not only was executed out of respect for his abilities, but also with confidence that long-term wear and tear would not shorten Jackson’s season.
Jackson Was Productive In Struggling Offenses
Jackson managed to accrue those numbers, despite the fact that he was often the only consistently productive weapon on an otherwise unimposing offense. That misfortune was also prevalent throughout the majority of his tenure in St. Louis. While the Rams did rank within the top 10 in total offense during Jackson’s initial three seasons in the league (2004-2006), the franchise has been mired in the bottom 10 for sixth straight years since that time. But in 2013, Jackson will be performing for an Atlanta franchise that possesses one of the NFL's most potent attacks. Not only should owners plan on selecting Jackson very early during their fantasy drafts as a result of his southward migration, but can do so with confidence that he will deliver even better results in 2013.
Jackson Now Joins An Elite Offense
The Falcon offense stands in stark contrast to the recent units that Jackson participated with in St. Louis, ranking eighth in total offense last season, while averaging 369 YPG. They also scored just over 26 PPG, which was the league’s seventh highest total. The Falcons also finished sixth in passing with 282 YPG, which established a new franchise record. Matt Ryan posted career bests in yardage (4,719), TDs (32) and completion percentage (69%). And the prolific trio of Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez combined to gather 264 of Ryan’s throws.
Jackson Should Thrive In Dirk Koetter's System
But even with Atlanta’s assortment of impressive numbers, the team also ranked a lowly 29th in rushing, averaging just 87 YPG, and 3.7 YPC. Jackson can boost those numbers sizably this season, while capitalizing on the opportunity to perform within such a potent unit. His new OC Dirk Koetter is undoubtedly a proponent of sustaining an ongoing aerial assault against opponents. Yet you should not be concerned that Jackson will be prohibited from receiving an acceptable number of carries. Last season, Koetter was in the process of dialing up 23.6 per game with Atlanta, while utilizing a diminished Michael Turner and a disappointing Jacquizz Rodgers as the rushing weapons. Meanwhile, Jackson’s Ram offense attempted an average of 25.6 runs per contest. That is correct... a mere difference of two rushing attempts per game.
Jackson's Receiving Numbers Should Improve
Plus, there is further proof that a running back will not suffer statistically in Koetter’s system. Maurice Jones-Drew exceeded 1,300 yards in three consecutive years while Koetter presided over the offense in Jacksonville, including a whopping 1,606 in 2011. MJD also scored 25 TDs on the ground during that span. Plus, he also averaged 407 yards as a receiver from 2007-2011 with Koetter calling plays, while garnering just over 46 receptions per season in the process. That bodes well for the likelihood that Jackson will garner more receptions this year when compared to his recent seasons in St. Louis. He collected 38 passes with the Rams last season, but easily should surpass 40 this year.
Jackson Should Become the Every Down Back
Jackson has placed himself in a situation that should allow him to excel, because he should benefit from joining a team that will sustain long drives at a rate exceeding what he has been involved with in recent seasons. There is an excellent chance that Jackson will be employed as a three-down back, since his competition is certainly underwhelming. After his first 151 carries as a pro, Rodgers has only managed 3.75 YPC, and is not capable of performing as an every down back. He should not pose a threat to pilfer significant touches. Nor should Jason Snelling, whose numbers have degenerated in four consecutive seasons. Plus, Jackson should garner the Falcon's goal line carries. Turner managed to produce double digits TDs in each of his seasons as a Falcon, and Jackson should also attain that mark.
Why You Should Draft Jackson Early
Not only has there been no decline in Jackson's production statistically, he remains a dangerous and effective yardage producer when you examine his 2012 efforts on tape. Jackson will be 30 years old when the season begins, but has yet to display discernible signs that he is slowing down. That stands in stark contrast to the visible decline by Turner. Jackson should still be capable of at least one more highly productive year, as he operates as part of a high octane attack for the first time in seven seasons. Not only should Jackson surpass 1,000 for the ninth consecutive year, but he should double last year's TD total, and could reach double digits. You can secure him as a low-end RB1 early in Round 2, although you might witness him being seized at the end of Round 1 in some drafts. However, he is worthy of that investment. Because the need to secure a dependable RB early in your drafts is critical, and Jackson certainly qualifies.