You've had a chance to digest the news that Sam Bradford signed a deal with the St. Louis Rams. And before the first overall pick in the draft takes his first practice snaps of camp, we've got a few minutes...so let's talk fantasy football.
Most fantasy players will stay far away from the Rams this season. With a young squad led by a rookie QB, there just aren't many players you can count on, except one. Despite his super human abilities, most fantasy pundits don't even have Jackson in their top five running backs. So, I ask you what is Steven Jackson's fantasy value this season? Where should you draft him?
There are a few things to consider with Jackson when evaluating his fantasy status. Let's review.
That's the elephant in the room. Jackson missed a game last season and dealt with a bum back most of the year. It actually was bad enough that he rarely practiced. Yet the results were still there. He had the second best season of his career rushing for more tham 1,400 yards and topping 1,700 total yards. During this offseason he had back surgery to repair a herniated disc. Still, he's healthy and expected to be at full speed at training camp. Any player on the Rams is a potential injury risk. One risk assessment of Jackson said that his work as a RB wasn't as dangerous as the kind of random activities that could cause him to tweak his back, like sitting on an airplane. But back injuries are unpredictable. As for the number of carries, he had 324 last season and less than 260 in the two seasons prior...because of injury. The good thing about that is that he should be less at risk based on his recent workload at least.
The Offense Around Him
The problem with Jackson last year for fantasy owners was that he didn't cross the goal line enough. He had just 4 rushing TDs, his lowest total since his rookie season. His three receiving TDs weren't too far off from career norms. The problem was the defenses could easily account for Jackson since he was the Rams only offensive threat. Have the Rams improved enough this season to take some of the heat off Jackson?
That's probably more of a question mark than his health. Sam Bradford will struggle as a rookie, but he should be at least a little better than the three-headed monster the Rams used at QB last season. The receivers, a question mark in their own right, should be a little better if they can stay healthy, particularly Laurent Robinson and Donnie Avery. TE Daniel Fells will need to be a consistent offensive weapon too. I think the Rams will have a better offense this year. How much better remains to be seen, but it should be enough of an improvement that Jackson could again be a threat in the red zone for at least a few more TDs than last year.
The Offensive Line
The Rams have the makings of a good offensive line. The middle is solid with C Jason Brown, LG Jacob Bell and whoever emerges as Richie Inconito's replacement on the right side. The tackles are a little more of an unknown. Rookie Rodger Saffold is expected to be the starter on the right side and he has excellent skills as a run blocker. But how long will it take him to adjust to the NFL? On the left side, Jason Smith has elite talent and started to emerge last season before injuries shut him down. Can he stay healthy?
Jackson's still a great first round pick, though he probably won't go until late in the first for many. If he falls into the second round, grab him without question. I think he could be in for a nice season.
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