Steven Jackson is not a trendy pick. Drafting Steven Jackson is not what all the cool kids are doing, and nobody’s going to call you a lame loser if you don’t draft Steven Jackson. However, Steven Jackson is a starting NFL RB who was drafted in the 2nd round last year, and is not coming off the board until the 8th round this year, according to ADP data from My Fantasy League.
Markets are prone to overcorrection. The truth is, Jackson should probably not have been a 2nd round pick last year. If you drafted Steven Jackson that early last year then Shawn Siegele is probably going to knock on your front door and try to tell you about the good news. The other truth is, he should be going earlier than the 8th round this year. Somewhat ironically, this makes Steven Jackson a strong candidate for teams using the Zero RB strategy.
You may have noticed I really haven’t said anything good about Steven Jackson as a player yet. That’s because there really isn’t that much to say. YPC may not be a very predictive stat, but in 10 seasons, he has never topped 4.4 YPC1 and he only had 3.5 YPC last year. He caught 33 balls last year, but only for 5.8 YPR. The lack of excitement he generates is part of what makes him valuable; He has the narrative of a dependable, experienced, and versatile veteran back. He will get touches, and that’s where his value lies. I’m not trying to oversell him, just like I wouldn’t try to oversell a pair of used pants at the Goodwill. Steven Jackson is a pair of charity pants.
Jackson doesn’t really have much of an injury history, and he doesn’t have much competition. He missed essentially five games last year but he didn’t tear anything major. He has played at least 12 games in every season of his career. It’s hard to find anything nice to say about Devonta Freeman, and landing in Atlanta didn’t really improve our opinions on his prospects.
On the app side of things, there’s good and bad news. The RB Similarity Score App gives him a high end projection of 11.2 points per game in PPR leagues, but a low of just 3 points per game.2 There’s also the fact that his closest comps have tended to do worse the next year:
Honestly, I would think Jackson was worth his current price even if his output decreased somewhat, but there’s a few reasons to be optimistic it will do the opposite. Lord Reebs himself has shown that game flow and scoring affect how often teams run. The Falcons finished last season with four wins and a point differential of -85; It’s safe to say they often weren’t in a position to run the football. In fact, they led the NFL by passing the ball 68.65% of the time regardless of situation, more often than the average for all teams when behind.
The Fantasy Gumshoe has found that Atlanta’s rushing matchups aren’t good this season, but that factors in how terrible they were last year.This season, Sam Baker should return and they’ve added Jake Matthews, so their offensive line should be improved. Julio Jones has also returned to stretch the field some more. They may also lean on the run more now that Tony Gonzalez has retired and his position doesn’t even exist in their playbook anymore. It would be almost impossible for their rushing offense to be equally inept and for their overall offense to be equally pass heavy his year.
Again, you’re not going to feel cool when you draft Steven Jackson. But it might make you feel cool if it helps you win a few leagues.