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Rams RBs: Does Leonard Affect S-Jax’s Value?


By: Ryan Dodson; Edited by: Cory J. Bonini

St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson is somewhat of a freak of nature. At 6-foot-2, 231 pounds, he has the size to run between the tackles along with the speed to run outside the tackles. He has distinctively progressed in each of his three seasons in the league while breaking out in his third season in 2006. He rushed 346 times for 1,528 yards (4.4 yards per carry) and 13 touchdowns. However, he also caught an astronomical 90 passes for 806 yards and three scores. This caliber of a season cemented Jackson as a lock to be a top-four pick in 2007 fantasy drafts.

The 24-year-old expressed concern over his workload last season, and it’s likely the team will utilize him less this season. The Rams drafted Rutgers fullback/running back Brian Leonard in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft. Leonard is expected to be used heavily in the passing game out of the backfield. Leonard is a gifted receiver out of the backfield that tallied 154 receptions for 1,380 yards and eight scores in three seasons in college.

Two seasons ago, there was talk that Jackson couldn’t play with pain. He suffered bruised ribs in Week 3 and was affected by the injury for three weeks. Overall, though, he has been blessed with good health missing just three games in his three seasons.

The Rams have a good line, but there are some concerns. Right tackle Alex Barron has been frustrating in his two seasons with his numerous penalties and has been abused by defensive ends. He is entering the crucial third year of his career, and he has to shore up his end. Left tackle Orlando Pace is entering his 11th season and is returning from a torn triceps tendon. He showed up to camp at 321 pounds, which was the lowest weight he has ever been in camp. This could be indicative of him failing to get his strength back after the injury.

The Rams’ passing game could be the best it has ever been. Former head coach Mike Martz failed to supply his quarterbacks with the talent at fullback or tight end in order for them to be legitimate safety nets should defenses shut down their dynamic duo of receivers in Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. The team has made a conscious effort to upgrade the offense with the selection of Leonard in the draft and the signing of tight end Randy McMichael (Dolphins). The team also patched another hole by adding 6-foot-5 receiver Drew Bennett (Titans) to improve their red zone success rate.

Fantasy Outlook

What does all this mean? There is more than enough talent to spread the wealth to. That means you can expect to see the team reduce Jackson’s utilizations in 2007. That doesn’t mean, however, that Jackson loses much value. Jackson should continue to progress and have another great season. You just shouldn’t expect him to catch 90 passes again.

Even with the resolved holdout of Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson, Jackson becomes more of a shoo-in for the No. 2 overall selection in fantasy drafts every day. If he slips any further than No. 3 in the draft, you could consider yourself lucky when you select him at No. 4.

As for Leonard, he makes a good No. 5 running back in point-per-reception formats. In a 16-round draft, you can expect to select him three-quarters through it. In leagues that do not award points for receptions, Leonard should probably only serve as a handcuff to Jackson since he is the primary backup.

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