Steven Jackson's 8-year streak of 1000 rushing yards or more was kept intact in 2012, despite horrible offensive line play and the tinkering of Daryl Richardson in the backfield. When he voided the last year of his deal, it was only a matter of time before Jackson not only gave himself a chance to continue that streak, but also give him a shot at a Super Bowl ring. Or at least be part of a team that would make it deep into the playoffs. Jackson was never going to see any of that with the Rams.
The Falcons wound up being the team to give Jackson both.
After much speculation all week that Jackson and the Packers were closing in on a deal, the Falcons made the surprise move and wasted no time in signing Jackson to a three-year, $12 million contract Thursday afternoon. This coming off the heels that Tony Gonzalez is set to return for at least one more year. Knowing that the Packers missed out on a golden opportunity to add some semblance of a running game to their backfield, something that they've lacked for years now, Green Bay fans should be stewing.
There is no doubt that the Falcons passing game is one of the best in the league. Between Julio Jones and Roddy White, both of whom could be No. 1 receivers on any other team, and with Gonzo coming back, Matt Ryan has had a plethora of talent surrounding him. But the one thing that the team has lacked is a consistent running game. Signed in 2008, Michael Turner had much early success after living in the shadows of LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego. The problem with Turner, however, was the Falcons used him too much early on. In 2008 and 2010 (Turner missed 5 games in 2009), Turner carried the ball a ridiculous 711 times. It worked for him as he was able to maintain an above 4.0 yards per carry average. But once 2012 rolled around and the first few weeks of the regular season passed by, it was clear Turner's wheels were coming apart. He averaged a mere 3.6 yards a carry and couldn't keep up with consistency on a week-to-week basis. Knowing that the team couldn't get anymore value out of him, Turner was released March 1.
Enter Jackson. While he is set to turn 30 before the start of the 2013 regular season, age is not a factor when it comes to his play. Jackson is a beast in the offseason. At 6'2, 240, you'd never think he was an aging veteran by looking at him because he keeps himself in such top physical condition. The dude is cut. And that regimen is why he has been able to continually take a pounding year in and year out and still put up respectable numbers.
Another reason why Jackson will flourish is because he is a pass-catching running back on a pass-happy team, something the Falcons couldn't take advantage of with Turner because it just wasn't his style. Turner was a bruising between the tackles guy, not someone you can depend on as a receiver. In Turner's entire career, he never reached 20 receptions in any one year. Jackson never went under 30 since he took over as the full-time starter. You better believe Mike Smith is already scheming on how to get Jackson involved in the passing game.
It's going to be hard to argue Jackson as anything less than an RB1. All the signs are there for a big year. He won't reach 300 carries, but he doesn't have to. However, Jackson should easily surpass 1000 rushing yards in 2013 since the running room will be there as defenses try and stop everyone else. And since he fits the bill as a receiver out of the backfield, his PPR value ranks him that much higher. Regarding touchdowns: Fuhgettaboutit. As bad as Turner was last year, he still managed 9 rushing scores, and 11 the year before. With that in mind, I wouldn't be surprised to see Jackson match his 2006 total of 13, possibly even more. He will be relied upon as the goal-line back.
Some will wonder how Jacquizz Rodgers factors into the equation. Don't. Rodgers had his chance last year when the team gave him opportunity after opportunity to beat out Turner for the starting job, failing miserably each time. Rodgers will get some touches, but he won't do enough damage to knock Jackson down the fantasy rankings. Dynasty owners won't like to hear that, but it's fact. Rodgers is nothing more than a change-of-pace runner.
With Jackson now in the mix, this offense will arguably be the most productive in terms of fantasy value in 2013.