Check out these numbers — 90 receptions, 2,334 yards from scrimmage, 16 total touchdowns.
Fantasy leaguers might sell their souls to get production like that from a running back. Those were the numbers of Steven Jackson in 2006.
Unfortunately, the veteran runner has since failed to meet statistical expectations in St. Louis.
Over the last two seasons, Jackson has averaged a far less attractive 39 receptions, 1,347 yards from scrimmage and seven total touchdowns. He’s also missed a combined eight games due to injuries.
Based on his recent failures, why then should Jackson be considered a surefire first-round selection?
Well, the most obvious reason is his status as one of the few featured backs remaining in the league. Let’s be real folks, Jackson isn’t going to lose carries to Kenneth Darby or Antonio Pittman.
Jackson will also be the centerpiece of the Rams offense under new coach Steve Spagnuolo, who has praised the runner in offseason workouts. Jackson is also healthier than he’s been in long while.
It’s also hard to ignore the changes the organization has made around their superstar back.
The Rams added fullback Mike Karney to plow the road for Jackson, and the addition of C Jason Brown and rookie OT Jason Smith should improve what has been a questionable offensive line in recent seasons.
Finally, Jackson will have nine games against teams that finished 16th or worse against the run last season. That includes games against the Texans (23rd), Colts (24th), Packers (26th) and Lions (32nd).
Jackson, who’ll be just 26 at the start of next season, likely won’t duplicate his 2006 numbers. There’s also no guarantee that he’ll avoid injuries, but that’s no different than a lot of running backs around the NFL.
Heck, you could argue that fellow runners Frank Gore, Brandon Jacobs, Clinton Portis and Brian Westbrook are just as risky.
One thing is for certain — Jackson will be in a great position to succeed in 2009, both for the Rams and fantasy owners.
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