Fantasy football owners have gotten good production out of both Steven Jackson and Frank Gore for a number of years now, but both will be 30 years old by the time the season starts, and that is an age when running backs begin to decline. Jackson signed with the Atlanta Falcons this offseason after spending his entire career with the St. Louis Rams, while Gore will be back as the No. 1 running back for the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers.
Jackson and Gore no longer belong among the elite group of fantasy running backs, but is one a better choice for 2013?
The Case For Steven Jackson
Jackson’s fantasy stock rose immediately upon his signing with the Falcons, and it’s easy to envision top-notch production with a wealth of talent around him. He did not score more than eight total touchdowns in any of his last six seasons with the Rams, so if nothing else Jackson is in line to threaten double-digit rushing scores as part of one the league’s best offenses.
Jackson has also proven capable as a pass catcher, with at least 38 receptions in each of the last eight seasons. Jacquizz Rodgers had 53 receptions as a third-down back for Atlanta last season and may fill a similar role this year as a change of pace option. But Jackson does not have the limitations as a receiver that Michael Turner did, so he looks sure to take at least some passing down work from Rodgers.
The Case For Frank Gore
Gore’s 2011 (282 carries for 1,211 yards and eight touchdowns; 17 receptions for 114 yards) and 2012 (258 carries for 1,214 yards and eight touchdowns; 28 receptions for 234 yards and one touchdown) seasons were nearly identical, and more importantly he played all 16 games in both campaigns. He was also productive during the 49ers’ Super Bowl run last year, with 319 rushing yards (5.1 yards per carry) and four touchdowns.
San Francisco has a couple of younger backs behind Gore in LaMichael James and Kendall Hunter, but Hunter tore his left Achilles’ tendon last November and may not be ready for the start of the season. In any case James is in line for a bigger role, and the 49ers may look to reduce Gore’s workload some.
Jackson and Gore are both worth considering as a RB2 in all league formats, and both have minimal downside as the primary back for two offenses that should produce at a high level. I think Jackson has a chance to be overvalued based purely on his new team, but I also think being with the Falcons makes his upside greater than Gore’s. Add in better value in PPR leagues, since Gore has just 45 receptions over the past two seasons combined, and Jackson is my choice.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.