2013 Fantasy Football Profile and Projection: Falcons RB Steven Jackson
Often we see talented players that spend all of their careers with a losing team join a legitimate contender near the end of the career for the chance to win a title.
Tied with the Broncos, the Falcons had the best record (13-3) in football, but they lost to the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game last year. Perhaps the addition of Jackson helps them go deeper into the postseason this year.
While Jackson joins a team that should have more success than his former team, he also moves to an improved situation from a fantasy football perspective.
The Falcons have one of the league's most potent passing attacks. Setting career highs across the board, Matt Ryan finished fifth in the NFL in passing yardage (4,719 yards). Plus, the team has one of the most talented trios of pass-catchers in the NFL with Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez.
The Rams improved their passing offense this offseason by drafting wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey and signing free-agent left tackle Jake Long. That said, Jackson has long been the primary focus of the Rams' offense (and of the defenses they faced). Facing many eight-men fronts, Jackson has averaged only 4.23 yards per carry in his career in St. Louis.
Beginning with his second season (2005) in the league, Jackson has a streak of eight consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 rushing yards. Only four running backs, all enshrined in Pro Football's Hall of Fame, have more 1,000-yard seasons: Emmitt Smith (11), Curtis Martin (10), Walter Payton (10) and Barry Sanders (10).
Back in 2006, Jackson had one of the best seasons ever for a running back. That year, he rushed for 1,528 yards, had 90 receptions for 806 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. While he will never approach 90 receptions again, Jackson is a very capable receiver out of the backfield and has finished with at least 38 receptions every season since 2005.
As productive as Jackson has been from a yardage and receiving standpoint, he has not had many goal-line opportunities within the Rams offense. Since scoring double-digit touchdowns in 2005 and 2006, Jackson has failed to hit that mark again. Over the past four seasons, he has scored a total of 20 touchdowns (19 rushing and one receiving), which ties him for 66th in the NFL during that span.
More opportunities should be available for Jackson in the Falcons' high-powered offense. Ex-Falcons running back Michael Turner, who was released early this offseason, ranks third on that list with 44 total touchdowns over the past four seasons. In fact, Turner has rushed for double-digit touchdowns in all five of his seasons in Atlanta.
The biggest concern with Jackson, who turns 30 years old in July, is the cumulative tread on the tires. No active running back has more carries than Jackson (2,395). Broncos running back Willis McGahee (1,957) ranks second on that list.
While I don't expect Jackson to break down in his age-30 season, we have seen other highly productive backs like Shaun Alexander have a precipitous and unexpected drop in production as they approach that age. With good health, however, Jackson could have his best season since 2006.
Fantasy Strength of Schedule
Based on the cumulative fantasy points allowed by their opponents from Week 1 to 16, Jackson and his fellow Falcons' running backs have the league's eighth-most favorable schedule in standard-scoring leagues. In point-per-reception (PPR) formats, they have a top-five schedule.
Unfortunately for Jackson and his fantasy owners, however, he faces the tough 49ers run defense in Week 16.
Projection: (Rushing) 245 Attempts, 1,078 Yards, 11 Touchdowns; (Receiving) 35 Receptions, 287 Yards, 1 Touchdown