Steven Jackson was a productive running back for the St. Louis Rams from 2005-2012, with at least 1,000 yards on the ground and 38 catches in all eight seasons. But he voided his player option for 2013, landed with the Atlanta Falcons, and proceeded to fall of a cliff with 543 rushing yards (3.5 yards per carry), 33 catches and 191 receiving yards in 12 games played. Jackson will turn 31 in July, and it’s worth wondering how much he has left with over 2,500 carries and close to 3,000 touches in his career.
The Falcons made upgrading their offensive line a priority this offseason by adding guard Jon Asamoah in free agency and using the sixth overall pick on offensive tackle Jake Matthews. The return to health of left tackle Sam Baker should only help things further after the Falcons finished last in the league in rushing (77.9 yards per game) last year.
A hamstring injury caused Jackson to miss most of five games early in the season, and he may not have been completely healthy until late in the season. A solid finish, with 392 rushing yards (3.6 yards per carry) and six touchdowns over the final seven games, is a positive note in the context of an otherwise dreadful season.
Jackson still had 33 receptions in 2013 despite playing only 12 games, so better health could bring a rebound to his previous production as a pass catcher with tight end Tony Gonzalez retired.
The Falcons added Devonta Freeman in May’s draft, and Jacquizz Rodgers is still around to take playing time and touches from Jackson. There looks to be a plan to reduce Jackson’s workload this year, and rightfully so if the team hopes to keep him healthy for all 16 games.
Atlanta’s best offensive players are at quarterback (Matt Ryan) and wide receiver (Julio Jones, Roddy White), so last season’s pass-heavy offense (41.2 attempts per game; third-most in the league) is not going to go away.
Jackson has always been more powerful than elusive as a runner, so any further decline that comes this year may bring another wall he’ll hit production-wise.
Jackson is a RB2 with significant downside this year, due to his career workload and coming off the worst season of his career. He could fall far enough to become a value pick on draft day though, and with a likely role as Atlanta’s goal line back Jackson may hold on to some fantasy value for one more year.
Bye Week: Week 9
Projected Round: Fifth or Sixth Round
Auction Value: $10 (ESPN.com)