This is the first installment of a new series that will examine the fantasy football status of key players returning from injuries…
Fred Jackson suffered a broken fibula in the week 11 contest with Miami that put an abrupt end to what was a fantastic season. Jackson had six games with over 100 rushing yards (in the nine full games he played before sustaining the season ending injury). Jackson’s stat line was impressive; 170 carries for 993 yards and a career-best 5.5 yards per carry. He added 39 catches for 442 yards and an 11.3 yards per reception average, again a career best. Jackson found the end zone 6 times. All indications are that Jackson will be ready to roll when camp opens.
Jackson’s dual threat ability (topped 100 yards combined in all nine games last season) is a fantasy owner’s dream making him a solid target on draft day. Just make sure to monitor his recovery through training camp and be sure to target his handcuff (CJ Spiller) who filled in as the starter late last season and flashed the potential that made him a first round pick in 2010.
Career Stats: Final column is Fantasy Points Per Game (FPG) based on standard scoring.
Other Expert Opinions
Our friend Jeff Mans from FantasyAlarm.com still ranks Fred Jackson in the top ten at RB. He has Jackson 9th in their 2012 RB rankings ahead of the likes of Marshawn Lynch, Trent Richardson, and Matt Forte in redraft formats.
FFToolbox.com isn’t nearly as optimistic about the outlook for Jackson. They still rank him as a viable starter but he’s at #17 on their RB rankings, clearly a RB2 as opposed to RB1.
Dynasty leagues are another matter. DynastyLeagueFootball.com has Jackson ranked all the way down at #41 among the RBs and the younger CJ Spiller up at #23 in their 2012 Dynasty Rankings.
FANTASY FOOTBALL SPIN
Fred Jackson should return at full strength during training camp. Health isn’t the problem, neither is the fact that he is 31 years old. Remember, he’s a young 31 not having come into the league until he was 25. Jackson has only topped 200 carries twice in his 5 NFL seasons and he should have plenty of life left in in his legs – even the one that is mending. CJ Spiller (9th overall pick of the 2010 draft) is the problem that should give fantasy owners some pause on draft day and in their keeper/dynasty decisions.
Spiller filled in admirably after Jackson’s season was cut short. The second year RB averaged 74 yards per game rushing over the final six games of the season, including 111 yards against the Broncos in week 16. Adding in his receiving yards over that period (187) Spiller averaged 105.5 yards per game and scored 5 TDs. Bills HC Chan Gailey said they will use Spiller more this year than they did before Jackson went down but that it won’t be a 50/50 situation.
Fred Jackson should remain the primary rusher for the Bills entering 2012 and for good reason as only four running backs have more average yards per game over the last three years than Jackson. He’s an excellent all around RB who can run, catch (topped 30 catches the past 4 seasons), and block with the best. While Spiller will certainly cut into his carries, Jackson’s experience and blocking ability give him the upper leg as he won’t automatically come off the field in any specific situation and certainly won’t yield to Spiller near the goal line. The team will find creative ways to have both running backs on field. Spiller has been lining up as a wide receiver in OTAs and we should see that package fairly often during the season.
In May, the Bills inked Jackson to a reasonable contract extension so he essentially enters the 2012 season on a three-year, $10.8 million contract. He can earn another $2.3 million through incentives in 2013 and 2014. It’s a very reasonable deal for the Bills, and limits their risk if Jackson’s career takes a downturn now that he’s 30+.
Fred Jackson’s ADP right now is 26 overall (RB#15). Considering that you can get him in the early to mid-3rd round right now – we like his value especially with so many other question marks at the RB position. The caveat is that you must spend another fairly early pick on CJ Spiller to make sure you don’t completely lose out if Spiller somehow rests control of the primary RB role. Spiller is coming off the board at pick #79 overall (32nd RB). You have to be prepared to spend a 3rd and 7th/8th round pick on this backfield if you are going to jump on Jackson and secure your investment with his handcuff. Keep in mind that you are going to suffer on depth a bit.
The price feels right if Jackson can still be had for a 3rd round price tag in late August when most drafts take place. It would allow you to spend either your first or second pick on a non-RB and still come out of it with a strong backfield. Looking at mock draft data a pick in the top 5 of serpentine drafts might be able to nab the top WR Calvin Johnson in the 1st round and follow it up with a high risk/reward RB like Adrian Peterson (ADP 18 overall), Jamal Charles (ADP 21 overall), or Steven Jackson (ADP 25 overall) in the 2nd.
If you spent your first pick on a RB you would land one of the top rushers in the draft and according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com data you’d have options like Andre Johnson (ADP 18.6), Cam Newton (ADP 22.2), and Rob Gronkowski (ADP 19) available in the 2nd.
Despite missing the final six games of the 2011 season – Jackson still finished with the 14th most fantasy points among RBs. The bottom line is that we think Fred Jackson presents very good value in the 3rd round (as a lower end RB1 / high end RB2) and we are willing to spend an 8th round pick (7th if you get antsy during the draft) on Spiller to insure the pick.