The 2013 Atlanta Falcons had some terrible injury woes that led to a four-win season. They suffered a number of injuries to their offensive starters, including WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White along with RB Steven Jackson. Both Jones and White should be back and healthy for Week 1 of the regular season, but Jackson’s continued injury worries make rookie RB Devonta Freeman an interesting late-round flier for fantasy football owners.
Jackson injured his hamstring during training camp in late July and hasn’t practiced since, though he did take part in some drills on Thursday. He will supposedly be ready for Week 1, but Jackson’s injury worries me. Jackson’s hamstring also acted up last year, causing him to miss four games.
Production for RBs over the age of 30 generally trends downward, and Jackson recently turned 31 years old. Even more cause for concern is his total of just under 3,000 career touches. Jackson’s body could be ready to give out at any point, and I want no part of him on my fantasy rosters for 2014.
While the backup on Atlanta’s depth chart is currently Jacquizz Rodgers, he was awful last year. While he contributed 52 catches in the passing game, Rodgers averaged only 3.5 yards per carry on 96 rushing attempts. If, or rather when, Jackson gets injured this year, I’m not sure Rodgers is who the Falcons want carrying the football.
Freeman looked sharp during last week’s preseason game against the Miami Dolphins. He rushed for 50 yards on 10 carries and added a beautiful 57-yard reception. Rodgers did convert a short-yardage TD in the first quarter but otherwise looked like his mediocre self, averaging 2.9 yards per carry in the game.
While I’m not terribly high on rookies in fantasy in general, I think that Freeman has a decent shot at playing time if Jackson goes down. Rodgers may start at first in that scenario, but I think that Freeman would quickly take over or at least share the load pretty evenly.
Jackson’s current low ADP is in the eighth round, but I would still rather wait three rounds later to grab Freeman as a lottery pick. There’s a lot of upside there in a revitalized Falcons offense, and I’ll take the under on 10 full games played by Jackson this year.