Fantasy football owners have long been able to rely on St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson as a prominent contributor. 2012 was his eighth consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season, and also his eighth straight campaign with at least 38 receptions. But a changing of the guard looks to be coming, as Jackson has hinted at retirement and at the very least looks unlikely to exercise his $7 million player option with the Rams for 2013. So is there someone in place that could take over for Jackson if he is on another team or chooses to call it a career?
Daryl Richardson’s overall production as a rookie this past season was not great, as he had just 98 carries for 475 yards as well as 24 catches for 163 yards with no touchdowns. Most of that production came prior to St. Louis’ Week 9 bye, and he only had 24 rushing yards on 16 carries over the final five games as Jackson moved back ahead of him in the Rams’ backfield pecking order.
Richardson did have some good moments when given the opportunity during the early part of the season, with his most productive games coming in Week 2 against the Washington Redskins (15 carries for 83 yards; two catches for 19 yards), Week 6 against the Miami Dolphins (11 carries for 76 yards; two catches for 23 yards) and Week 7 against the Green Bay Packers (eight carries for 36 yards; three receptions for 43 yards).
Richardson lacks the ideal size (5’10”, 196 lbs.) to be a workhorse back, particularly when compared to Jackson (6’2″, 240 lbs.). However, the potential he showed should be more than enough to put him first in line to be the Rams’ primary running back next season if Jackson is gone. Fellow 2012 draft pick Isaiah Pead may also figure prominently in St. Louis’ backfield picture in that case, but with just 10 carries for 54 yards and three catches for 16 yards during a nondescript rookie season he is at best an unpredictable fantasy option.
Of course everything depends on what happens with Jackson this off-season, but Richardson could be worth a look as a late-round flier in drafts and auctions next summer. In the brief glimpse fantasy owners got in 2012 he showed some capability as a pass catcher, which would obviously bolster his fantasy value even further. There is nice potential for Richardson to become a viable low-end RB2 or high-end RB3 in all league formats next season, assuming a bump up the depth chart looks imminent.