Steven Jackson is aware of his standing with Fantasy owners.
"I think I'm a Top 5 draft pick in Fantasy Football," he told us in February.
The Rams running back knows what he has to improve on in 2010.
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"I only had four touchdowns last year, and I know a lot of people were disappointed with that," he added.
And he has set some lofty goals for himself this year.
"I believe that stat-wise I will have my most impressive season that I've ever had, including 2006," he proclaimed.
To refresh your memory, Jackson had more than 2,300 total yards and 16 touchdowns in 2006. That year helped establish Jackson as an elite Fantasy running back, and we've waited for him to return to that level ever since, with injuries limiting his play in 2007 and 2008.
But Jackson showed he can be a star again with an outstanding performance last year. While he only scored the four touchdowns, he had over 1,700 total yards. And now we have an injury concern again.
He dealt with herniated discs at the end of last season, which cost him a game in Week 16. When I spoke with Jackson in February he said he was trying to avoid surgery, but he eventually underwent a minor procedure in April.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the rehab process after the procedure Jackson had is about eight weeks. There is a chance the problem could reoccur, but Jackson should be ready for the start of training camp.
So even though Jackson could suffer a setback, we're still ready to, ahem, back him. We have Jackson ranked as the No. 7 running back coming into the season.
At this point you have to be asking yourself why we're so confident in Jackson. After all, he plays on a team with limited weapons and has a potential back injury waiting to force him to the bench.
Let's start by going back to last year. Jackson played behind a poor offensive line with a quarterback carousel of Marc Bulger, Kyle Boller and Keith Null. He had a receiving corps that started a special teams' standout in Danny Amendola, but Jackson still posted outstanding stats.
He ran behind fullback Mike Karney for 1,416 yards on 4.4 yards per carry, and he also had 51 catches for 322 yards. And this year, Jackson has better talent around him.
The Rams upgraded at quarterback (Sam Bradford), wide receiver (Mardy Gilyard) and offensive line (Rodger Saffold) in the NFL Draft and will get wide receiver Laurent Robinson back from a broken leg. While these aren't groundbreaking moves, they are a significant upgrade from last year.
Jackson will remain the focal point of opposing defenses, but the burden should be easier. That should allow him to shine as long as his back holds up.
And the best thing about him is you know he will get the touches. Last year, Jackson was one of six running backs with 20-plus carries per game. He averaged 22 carries per game, joining Cedric Benson (23), Chris Johnson (22), Thomas Jones (21), Adrian Peterson (20) and Maurice Jones-Drew (20). Add in his ability to catch the ball, and Jackson is the Rams offense.
He is looking forward to a heavy workload again in 2010.
"I look at it like a challenge," Jackson said. "If a defensive coordinator decides to put eight or nine guys in the box then I've already done my job. He's spent all week concerned about stopping the run, which should allow us to have a dynamic passing game and play-action. You just have to grind it out. You have to be mentally tough as well as physically tough to carry that load."
There is definitely some risk involved with drafting Jackson based on his back, so he should be watched closely in training camp. But you can argue that almost every running back has some potential red flags. As long as Jackson stays on the field, he should be fine.
Jackson is expecting big things for himself this season. Now it's time for him to back it up.
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