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Steven Jackson Will be the 2013 Fantasy MVP


Perhaps the real title to this article should be “Why I Chose Steven Jackson over Jamaal Charles in the RotoViz Dynasty Veteran Draft.”

On June 1, the guys at RotoViz launched the startup veteran draft for the RotoViz Dynasty League (RDL), a venture of which we’re already proud. (And, as an aside, I am happy to say that I, as commissioner and a player, have found FleaFlicker to be an excellent hosting site for our league, which you can follow here.)

In an admitted instance of douchebaggery, my last article detailed the strategies I used in the RDL veteran draft: trading down to acquire more “starter quality” picks; drafting players with depressed values; and targeting older players who are likely to outperform their draft positions in 2013.

The most immediate result of these transactions was my passing on Jamaal Charles (at 1.14) and instead selecting Steven Jackson (at 3.10) to be my RB1. In fact, S-Jax was the first player I selected in the draft, and this article is my attempt to explain why I’m comfortable with him as the centerpiece of my Riggins Rigs franchise in 2013. In short, I think my team was better served by my drafting him instead of Jamaal Charles (whom I still like a lot) because of the sheer value the 30-year-old runner provides at his draft position. Right now, I consider him to be the frontrunner for the 2013 Fantasy MVP in all formats.

Steven Jackson v. Jamaal Charles

Jamaal Charles has received lots of love here at RotoViz. Jacob Myers wrote this piece exploring Charles’s upside in Andy Reid’s offense, Shawn Siegele (seemingly) goes out of his way to praise Charles in a non-love piece on Marshawn Lynch, and in his review of the RDL Draft’s 2nd Round Siegele suggests that Charles could finish the year with the single-season record for scrimmage yards. The site-wide enthusiasm for Charles is understandable; he’s a great player.

And how much attention has S-Jax received from RotoViz? Zero. Absolutely no articles on one of the best and steadiest RBs of the last decade. This negligence leads me to ask two questions: 1) What the hell have we been doing as a staff for the last 6 months? 2) If we’ve ignored him completely, do you think he may be undervalued?

I suppose that as a staff we’ve been doing what lots of people have been doing: Analyzing rookies and young players and consequently ignoring many of the veterans we already “know”—and I believe that when drafts come around the time we’ve invested in analyzing the younger players thus leads directly to our selecting them instead of players like S-Jax, even in redraft leagues. In other words, I think that (generally speaking) the amount of analysis devoted to S-Jax correlates inversely to the value he currently represents. Right now, in comparison to someone like Jamaal Charles, Steven Rashad Jackson provides great value. He’s so legit right now we should just start calling him ‘Shad.

He was the #38 pick in the RDL veteran draft, and his ADP on My Fantasy League is 36.06 for redraft leagues and 45.71 in keeper leagues. At those valuations, he’s a steal, especially if one is thinking only about 2013—and for the purposes of this article and the RDL, I am. Here’s why I think that Steven Jackson will be a beast in 2013, perhaps every bit as good as the RB I decided not to draft, Jamaal Charles.

First, let’s look at what RotoViz’s (excellent) Similarity Scores App has to say about these two players. [By the way, I encourage you to play around with this app on your own. It’s one of the best fantasy tools on the internet.]

Here’s the Projection Summary.

Jamaal Charles Standard PPR
Low 7.8 9.5
Median 10 11.7
High 11.3 14

Average of Season N+1 Results

Year N+1 Average ***** ***** 26.9 208 11.8 15.6 65.4 4.2 0.3 1.9 13.6 0.07

That’s not bad, right, for your RB1? A median of almost 12 pts. is respectable, and Charles could approach the high of 14, with Andy Reid using him as McCoy West. Not bad.

And here’s the info for Steven Jackson:

Projection Summary

Steven Jackson Standard PPR
Low 6.1 6.7
Median 7.8 9.5
High 11.4 13.5

Average of Season N+1 Results

Average ***** ***** 29.8 227.1 12.8 12.8 51.8 4.04 0.3 1.5 13.8 0.05

At first glimpse Charles looks better, but I don’t think substantially better than Jackson in 2013. Jackson’s range of potential outcomes does exhibit a lower floor and median, but his high is almost as high, and despite his age he is projected to play one game more than Charles.

Steven Jackson v. Michael Turner

Additionally, I think that Jackson will play near the higher range of his potential with the Falcons. Since 2007 he has been a solid low-end RB1, and last year he recorded his lowest finish in that timespan as the #16 RB (according to PFR), with an offense that was inconsistent and featured little support, and as a result—as has been the case for years—he was afforded little opportunity to score TDs. Jackson may be in decline, but his rushing average last year was barely below his career average. I think his floor in 2013 is no worse than a repeat of 2012, barring injury, and if Jackson had only been in a position to score more TDs last year (and no one doubts his red-zone rushing ability), he would have been a top-10 RB.

In Atlanta, S-Jax will get opportunities to score. That’s all Michael Turner did in Atlanta for 5 years, scoring at least 10 TDs each year. On the strength of his 10 rushing TDs last year, the washed-up and currently unemployed Turner was the #17 RB (right behind S-Jax). And in his three non-injury-shortened seasons before 2013 (discounting 2009) Turner finished #2, #9, and #6 at his position. Yeah, that’s an average of #5.67: When Turner was good and healthy in Atlanta, he was a top-6 RB.

In 2012, Atlanta’s 3 top RBs (Turner, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Jason Snelling) combined to score 14 TDs. In 2011, that number was also 14. In 2010, 18 TDs. By comparison, Rams RBs combined to score 4 TDs in 2012, 7 TDs in 2011, and 9 TDs in 2010. In other words, S-Jax is moving to an offense that has provided RBs in each of the last three years at least double the number of TDs. In 2012 Falcons RBs scored 3.5 TDs for every 1 TD scored by a Rams RB. At a minimum, S-Jax is likely to score double the number of TDs he’s averaged over the last three years. From 2010 to 2012, Jackson averaged 5 rushing TDs (and 0.33 receiving TDs) per year. In 2013, I think it’s safe to pencil Jackson in for no fewer than 10 TDs. His TD total should dramatically increase.

As should his number of receptions. In 2012 the Falcons RBs combined to catch 103 passes for 733 yards and 3 TDs. The Rams RBs, meanwhile, combined to catch 65 passes for 500 yards 0 TDs. Although Jackson has caught an average of 44.25 passes per year since 2009 (when he turned 26 years old), he caught only 38 passes in 2012. In 2013 that number has to improve. If he receives all of Michael Turner’s 2012 receptions, that’s 19 catches. And then (assuming he will still play a lot on third downs) if he receives only half of Rodgers and Snellings’ 2012 receptions, S-Jax should receive an additional 42 catches on top of Turner’s 19. Yes, in Dirk Koetter’s 2013 offense, S-Jax might capture as many as 61 receptions. And considering that Jackson once caught 90 passes from Marc Bulger in a season, I think that he can handle the burden of catching around 60 passes next season from Matt Ryan.

S-Jax v. JC Superstar in 2013

So how could S-Jax do in Atlanta? If you put together his 1363 scrimmage yards last year with Turner’s TD total, the resulting number of fantasy points is 202, which would have been good for #10, just ahead of Stevan Ridley. And keep these two facts in mind: 1) Jackson’s worst receiving season is better than Turner’s best. He will be an asset in the receiving game. 2) From 2008 to 2011, when Turner was still a starting-caliber RB, he recorded no worse than 1456 scrimmage yards in any season in which he played every game—and he averaged 1402.5 scrimmage yards per season during those four years, including his injured 2009 campaign.

Barring injury, S-Jax can’t do any worse in 2013 than he and Michael Turner did in 2012, can he? Probabilistically, Jackson will at worst be the #16 or #17 RB (as the 17th RB in the RDL draft, he provides barrels of value, all wrapped up into one muscularly juicy 240-lb frame!), and at best he could be what Turner was in his last good year: the #6 RB overall. And maybe, just maybe, he could be what Turner was in his first year with the Falcons—a top-2 RB. If S-Jax accumulated 100 scrimmage yards and 1 TD per game in 2013, would anyone actually be surprised?

And what is Jackson’s most realistic finish? Since joining the Falcons in 2008, Turner has averaged a positional finish each season of #11. Across that same timeframe, Jackson has averaged #13. In 2013, S-Jax should be a reliable low-end RB1 with a solid chance of being a top-6 RB. For a guy chosen in the third round, that’s pretty good value.

Charles also has a shot at being the #6 RB, too, but he should have a shot—he was the 7th RB off the board. S-Jax meanwhile was the 17th RB selected. In essence, those who draft S-Jax this year will likely be paying last year’s price tag, which I believe is his floor for performance in 2013. In other words, in drafting Jackson the smart player will minimize the risk of investment and maximize any potential gains. If S-Jax does the minimum, fantasy players will recoup the initial third-round investment (as far as 2013 goes); if, however, Jackson submits an RB1-caliber season, they will receive a first-round performance at a discounted price—and, in my case, because I traded down, I’ll have the benefit of many extra picks in Rounds 5-9 used to select better low-end starters and premium bench players. That’s a nice bit of drafting, if I say so myself.

What’s it all mean? In 2013, draft S-Jax, plan on using him as an RB1, and figure out where to put your trophy. He’s the 2013 Fantasy MVP.

What’s OTC?

Throughout the summer, I plan on doing a series of pieces, each of which will compare the player taken by one of my original picks (or perhaps available at that pick or whom I would have been tempted to take there) to the player I acquired either with the corresponding “replacement” pick or with an equivalent roster function in mind, i.e., “This guy will be my RB2.” Coincidentally (not really), some of these pieces will also serve to complete the “third-year sleeper WR” series I started a while ago. (I put it on hold, hoping that I would be able to draft some of my deep sleepers. I was, and now I can write without fear of losing these guys in the RDL.)

Just for reference, here’s a table showing the net effect of my trading down and drafting strategies. The group on the left comprises the players acquired with the picks I originally owned. The group on the right is my actual roster, the players I actually picked after I traded down multiple times.

2013 RDL Draft: Riggins Rigs                                                       

Original                                                                                 New                                 

Year Draft Rd Pick Overall Player Year Draft Rd Pick Overall Player
2013 Vet. 1 14 14 Jimmy Graham 2013 Vet. 3 10 38 Steven Jackson
2 1 15 Jamaal Charles 3 14 42 Reggie Bush
3 14 42 Reggie Bush 4 5 47 Andre Johnson
4 1 43 Russell Wilson 5 8 64 Frank Gore
5 14 70 James Jones 5 10 66 Danario Alexander
6 1 71 Reggie Wayne 5 14 70 James Jones
7 14 98 Tony Romo 6 1 71 Reggie Wayne
8 1 99 Tony Gonzalez 6 5 75 Jonathan Stewart
9 14 126 Isaiah Pead 7 8 92 DeSean Jackson
10 1 127 Joe Flacco 7 14 98 Tony Romo
11 14 154 Jay Cutler 8 1 99 Tony Gonzalez
12 1 155 Jeremy Kerley 8 5 103 Sidney Rice
13 14 182 DeAngelo Williams 9 8 120 Antonio Gates
14 1 183 Roy Helu 9 14 131 Jon Baldwin
15 14 210 Bilal Powell 10 5 138 Jarius Wright
16 1 211 Beanie Wells 11 8 144 Daniel Thomas
17 14 238 Clyde Gates 12 5 148 Philip Rivers
18 1 239 T.J. Yates 13 8 159 Kealoha Pilares
19 14 266 Cyrus Gray 14 1 176 Evan Royster
20 1 267 Marcedes Lewis 16 1 183 Roy Helu
21 14 294 Stephen Burton 16 7 211 Beanie Wells
22 1 295 Armon Binns 17 10 217 Jarrett Boykin
23 14 322 Shaun Draughn 17 14 234 David Gettis
24 1 323 Ryan Fitzpatrick 18 1 238 Clyde Gates
25 14 350 Jordan Norwood 21 14 294 Stephen Burton
26 1 351 Bernard Scott 22 1 295 Armon Binns
Rook 1 27 1 1 Le’Veon Bell Rook 1 27 7 7 Eddie Lacy
Rook 2 28 14 28 Terrance Williams Rook 2 28 4 18 Marcus Lattimore
Rook 3 29 1 29 Da’Rick Rogers Rook 3 28 8 22 Geno Smith
Rook 4 30 14 56 Michael Ford (last pick of Round 30) Rook 4 28 14 28 Terrance Williams

I don’t know about you, but I prefer the roster on the right. If I had kept my original picks, I would have selected LeSean McCoy at the 1.14/2.1 turn to be my RB2, and while I think McCoy provides great value at those spots I also think that Reggie Bush—selected at the turn of Rounds 3 and 4—also provides immense value as my RB2. In my next article, I hope to show that, with his ADP, Bush is a better overall value than McCoy.




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