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Thread: KFFL on Jackson

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    KFFL on Jackson

    If this should go in the Fantasy Forum, go ahead and move it. I thought it would be good here as it gives some more info on our rookie RB...

    KFFL Impact Report
    Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams - 07/08/04
    By Joel Haugen - Edited By Herija C. Green

    After anxiously awaiting the next coming of RB Emmitt Smith, Dallas Cowboys fans were salivating when Oregon State RB Steven Jackson was available when they picked No. 22 pick in April's NFL draft. The same fans were screaming at their TV sets when the Cowboys passed on Jackson, who was subsequently picked up by the seemingly perennial offensive powerhouse, St. Louis Rams. With a logjam of RBs already on roster, many question the Rams motives with the pick, even trading up to grab Jackson. Why did Jackson fall so far after some draft gurus picked him to be a Top 10 pick? Why did the Rams need another RB? Is Faulk's knee injury worse than they are letting on? What can we expect from Jackson in his rookie year? Looking deeper into the Rams situation, the Jackson-Rams match may be good for everyone involved.

    Offensive Struggles

    The Rams have been offensive juggernauts for years. Faulk has been a fantasy football superstar for years. WRs Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce spread the defense to allow the backs to get downfield and make big plays. One of the most versatile RBs in the game, Faulk is a great receiver out of the backfield and has the uncanny ability to break tackles in the open field. When Faulk is healthy, he is one of the best backs in the game. Therein lies the problem.

    Table 1: Marshall Faulk Statistics (1999-2003)

    Run Run Run Run Rec Rec Rec
    Year G GS Att Yards Avg TDs Rec. Yards Avg TDs
    1999 16 16 253 1381 5.5 7 87 1048 12.0 14
    2000 14 14 253 1359 5.4 18 81 830 10.2 6
    2001 14 14 260 1382 5.3 12 83 765 9.2 5
    2002 14 10 212 953 4.5 8 80 537 6.7 3
    2003 11 11 209 818 3.9 10 45 290 6.4 3

    Each year, whether it be issues of the team around him or injuries, Faulk's performance has dwindled. RBs Arlen Harris and Lamar Gordon both struggled a season ago in trying to replace the All-Pro.

    Table 2: Arlen Harris / Lamar Gordon 2003 Statistics

    Run Run Run Run Rec Rec Rec
    Player G GS Att Yards Avg TDs Rec. Yards Avg TDs
    Harris 16 2 85 255 3.0 4 15 102 6.8 0
    Gordon 10 4 71 298 4.2 1 8 59 7.4 0

    With ample opportunity to shine, neither Gordon nor Harris was able to stand out. In early April, Faulk underwent his second knee surgery in the past year alone and though head coach Mike Martz sounded optimistic, it's possible the 10-year veteran may not have the same abilities he's had in recent years. If Faulk is not healthy the Rams will need a solid RB to help keep defenses honest. Since Harris and Gordon struggled, we come to Jackson.

    College Star

    Jackson seemed as surprised as anyone when the Rams called his name in the 2004 draft. Whether it was the disappointment of falling so far or the surprise at who selected him, Jackson's draft day was anything but expected. The team must have seen something in Jackson's college play to warrant the pick as there were more pressing needs for the Rams. However, something caused them to pull the trigger and pick Jackson, who is a similar type of player to Faulk. At Oregon State, Jackson was known for his versatility, and was frequently used as a receiver out of the backfield.

    Table 3: Steven Jackson Collegiate Statistics (2001-2003)

    Run Run Run Run Rec Rec Rec
    Year G GS Att Yards Avg TDs Rec. Yards Avg TDs
    2003 350 1670 4.4 19 44 470 10.7 3
    2002 319 1690 5.3 15 17 165 9.7 1
    2001 74 390 5.3 5 5 45 9.0 1

    Obviously these are spectacular collegiate statistics. Jackson averaged 1.7 TDs and 165 offensive yards per game in his junior season at Oregon State. What is more impressive is that he earned these stats on a team that had a limited supporting cast. Jackson was the focal point of the offense throughout 2003, which allowed defenses to key on him. Still, Jackson broke almost every rushing record in school history, and was both an All-Pac 10 and All-American player.

    His versatility as a decent pass blocker, solid receiver and great rusher allowed him to get touches in a variety of ways. Sound familiar? These attributes and Jackson's work ethic make him a solid NFL prospect. With that said, he has his drawbacks as well.

    Positives and Negatives

    Jackson is a good sized back that can pound it down the gut of defenses. Jackson (6-2, 233 pounds) ran a 4.45 40-yard dash outside, which means that although he is not blazingly fast, he is quick enough to get outside of defenders and break long gains. His size also allows him to be an efficient blocker. As mentioned, Jackson is a solid receiver. Averaging 10.7 yards per reception in 44 receptions his junior year showed the ability to roll out into the flats or line up in the slot. Although Jackson is polished, he is still young, turning 21 prior to the 2004 season.

    Jackson does have some concerns. Though solid, Jackson could improve his blocking ability and he needs additional work in reading defenses, which he has had minimal exposure to. He uses his strength and burst of speed to avoid tackles, but if the defense stops him at the point of attack, he has yet to show the consistent ability to bounce to the outside. He has a quick initial burst, but lacks the speed to separate himself from opponents consistently in the open field at the next level. Jackson has also shown his durability by starting every game in his sophomore and junior campaigns. With that said, Jackson had his knee scoped this offseason, forcing him to skip the scouting combine. The Rams have indicated they are not concerned about his knee and it should not force Jackson to miss any practice time.
    New Surroundings

    Jackson finds himself in a good situation as with Faulk healthy, Jackson can be brought along slowly. He can learn from the Faulk and appears to be accepting of his backup role. Jackson has stated he is looking forward to learning from Faulk, particularly to aid him in his understanding of complex NFL defensive schemes.

    Holt and Bruce have been one of the best receiver tandems in the league in recent years. They should continue to take pressure off the backs, forcing the defense to keep fewer defenders in the box. Since both Faulk and Jackson are receiving threats, they should benefit from getting man-to-man coverage, allowing them to break some big plays.

    The Achilles heel of the Rams last year was their offensive line. Unfortunately, the line has not improved much this offseason. As a team, only the Detroit Lions ran for fewer yards than the Rams, who totaled only 1,496 rushing yards last season. Although that may be skewed since the Rams are a passing team, the line also allowed 43 sacks last season, tying them for the third most sacks allowed. The line is largely intact from last year and with a healthy OT Kyle Turley, perhaps the team can improve on both their run and pass blocking.

    Regardless of the small issues the Rams have on offense, Jackson is being put in a solid position on a contending team.

    Fantasy Slant

    Jackson's addition has fantasy implications for numerous players, most notably the other tailbacks. Gordon showed glimpses during the 2003 season, starting four games and averaging 4.2 yards per carry, but he mustered one TD. Not the type of numbers you look for in a fantasy back. Gordon will probably be the third back on the depth chart for the Rams. If Faulk is injured again this season, Gordon may become a decent mid-season pickup, but when your draft comes around he should probably be passed on.

    Harris was a rookie last season that benefited from injuries to fellow backs, starting two games. Many fantasy owners remember his three TD performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers last year. Harris was not able to duplicate the performance again, and probably will not this season either. Martz has indicated that Harris may move to FB next season. Although this will probably keep him on the field more often, it may not translate into fantasy value.

    Make no mistake about it; Faulk is the starter. If his knee holds up and can remain healthy, he should receive the bulk of the carries. Although Faulk is not getting any younger, he is still capable of having a solid season. Even before last season, many argued he was one of the top fantasy players in many leagues. The team remains committed to Faulk, naming him a captain for the next season. He will get carries. The question is if his body can still take it.

    For now, Jackson can bide his time on the sideline. He will likely give Faulk breaks during games and may come in on several third down plays throughout the season. If Faulk goes down with injury, expect to see Martz put the ball in Jackson's hand. Jackson was considered one of the most NFL ready prospects this season, and he may be asked to prove it... quickly.

    Jackson should be a solid late round draft pick this season for several reasons:

    He is a versatile back who should get both carries and receptions, which is a plus for fantasy backs.
    He is on a team that has a history of powerful offensive weapons.
    He will be backing up an aging and oft-injured veteran.
    Faulk owners should be particularly interested in picking up Jackson. Insurance on a commodity like Faulk cannot be underestimated. If someone else in your league picks up Faulk, and you have an available pick late, Jackson could be a great option. Make the Faulk owner sweat out the fact you may have the future of the Rams rushing game on your team.

    The bottom line is Jackson is a gamble this season. His value is greater in keeper or dynasty leagues as he has big upside. Watch the early preseason news for updates on Faulk's health and if it is faltering, Jackson's value increases. As a backup, Jackson may be better than many, and could be a great value late in the draft. He could end up becoming the next Marshall Faulk, or he could end up the next Larry Johnson (Kansas City RB); a player with potential stuck behind an All-Pro.

    This space for rent...

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    Re: KFFL on Jackson

    Awesome article, thanks!
    ClanRam ModCast: Episode Four
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