After his 134-yard outburst Sunday, Steven Jackson is third in the NFL in rushing yards, behind only the rejuvenated Cedric Benson and the fantastic Adrian Peterson. Jackson also is second in attempts. However, Benson and Peterson are the top scorers among fantasy running backs; Jackson is nowhere to be found in the top 10. You see, there's this thing called an end zone, and Jackson (and the Rams?) seems to be allergic to it. Yes, touchdowns matter. I know fantasy owners have noticed this ... but they're also panicking because of it.
Jackson was traded in one of my leagues last week for a RB-WR package I'd prefer not to mention, lest you think the league features a bunch of bozos. It's not only that league, though. Jackson's name seems to be floating around in many leagues as the owners who made him a top-eight pick worry he'll end up scoring as many touchdowns this season as they do. I admit it's a frightening thought, a touchdown-less season; Redskins punter Hunter Smith has scored a rushing touchdown. Giants backup quarterback David Carr has done so as well. There have been touchdowns scored by 247 players this season. None are named Steven Jackson. But now is a time to buy low, not sell for what you can get.
Watching Jackson zig and zag and pilfer the Indianapolis Colts' defense seemingly at will Sunday, I felt kind of bad for him and his owners, but I also viewed this as an unlucky coincidence. Give this guy a passing game, and there would be more goal-line situations and he'd score once in a while. But even that is too simplistic. Bad teams move the ball, too. Jackson will score. Instead of selling for less than market value, we should take notice of how good Jackson has been. Give him a break. He didn't choose his teammates.
The best recent examples I can recall of a really good player being unlucky when it came to touchdowns are two Tiki Barber seasons. In 2003, Barber came off an 11-touchdown breakout and was a relative dud, scoring only three times all season, and none on the ground after the seventh game. Thanks to his total yards, Barber finished as a solid No. 2 fantasy back that season, but the utter lack of touchdowns couldn't have been predicted. In 2004, he turned around and scored 15 times. Even if Jackson continues along this path to the rare touchdown, or even none this season, he's still valuable for what he is doing in terms of yards.
Then, in Barber's final season, 2006, he didn't score any touchdowns the first seven games, but he accumulated 715 rushing yards. Looks awfully familiar to the current Jackson season, doesn't it? Since the NFL-AFL merger, Barber and Jackson are the two players with the most yards to have gone the first seven games without scoring. How did Barber finish up his final NFL campaign? He continued to pile on the yards, like Jackson is doing, and in his eighth game, he scored on a 16-yard jaunt against the Houston Texans. He didn't score again until Week 15, and then punctuated his seemingly -- but hardly -- lost season with 234 rushing yards and three scores in the finale at Washington, reminding us that touchdowns can occur in bunches. Barber finished with five touchdowns and more than 2,100 yards from scrimmage, easily the performance of a top-five running back.
I still think Jackson can do something like this. The schedule really hasn't given him a break, as none of the teams the Rams have played are in the top 10 in terms of allowing fantasy points to running backs. Four of those teams are among the toughest (Packers, Redskins, Jaguars and Vikings). But you know who Jackson faces in Week 8? The Detroit Lions! It's about time. Nothing tough there. If Jackson runs the way he has been, he could score two or three times. He won't need to wait, like Barber did until the last game of his career, to go off.
Talent almost always wins out, and while Jackson is having a better season than Michael Turner, for example, few notice because he's behind him in fantasy points (because of the lack of touchdowns). The Rams' schedule isn't lined with Lions-type matchups the rest of the season -- although the Titans in Week 14 are about the same thing -- but we're talking about value here. Jackson is on pace for more than 1,800 total yards. He could still win the rushing title. The lack of touchdowns is a downer, but if he keeps playing well, he'll get his share. Touchdowns might be the most important thing, but they aren't everything.
There's no worse time to sell this top-five player than now, and if you can acquire him, you should. I still feel like there's a top-10 player lurking inside him, waiting to bust out. Maybe it'll happen this week.