Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of the great Steven Jackson's career?
Fantasy owners are a reactionary bunch, and a nine-point Week 6 -- Jackson's sixth consecutive single-digit fantasy point performance to begin 2012 -- coupled with his 12 carries falling within range of backup Daryl Richardson's 11, might instill doubt in his owners. He's 29 years old, he has the 14th-most career carries (2,227) and 13th-most touches (2,606) of any player before his 30th birthday, and has seen his total yards per game drop each year since 2008.
Jackson also landed on the injury report in Weeks 3, 4 and 5, probably contributing to what is a career-worst 3.6 yards per carry. Heck, when using the word "consistency" to describe Jackson, the most applicable use is his appearances on the weekly injury report: He has been on it 19 times since the beginning of 2009, 13 of those questionable tags. During that three-plus-year span, Jackson has battled back, the flu, knee, groin, finger, quadriceps, foot and groin (again) issues.
Let's address those concerns.
CONSISTENCY RATINGS BENCHMARKS
Using 2012 statistics, and fantasy points determined by ESPN's standard scoring, the charts contained in this column rate players based upon how consistently reliable they are. To familiarize you with some of the terminology:
Start: The number of times that the player's point total in a given week was worthy of having had him active in an ESPN standard league.
Stud: The number of times the player's point total ranked among the top at his position.
Stiff: The number of times the player's point total ranked among the worst at his position, making almost any waiver-wire option a smarter choice.
These are the benchmarks for what constitutes a "Start," "Stud" or "Stiff" performance, numbers identifying the player's rank at his position:
Sat: The number of times the player missed a game. Players are not charged "Stiff" points for sitting out, but it hurts their overall Consistency Rating.
%: The player's overall Consistency Rating, calculated as number of "Start" performances divided by scheduled team games.
First, Richardson's 11 carries represented only the seventh time since the beginning of 2009 that any St. Louis Rams running back not named Steven Jackson ran double-digit times in a game in which Jackson played. Of those seven instances, four occurred in games Jackson departed early due to injury, while another was in one in which he was listed questionable. This was only the second time in which Jackson neither left early nor was listed on the injury report beforehand, which is why Richardson's Week 6 workload was a big deal.
Second, while Jackson's career workload might be approaching the "panic" stage, history continues to support next season -- his age-30 season -- as panic-button time. Yes, 29-year-olds tend to suffer statistical declines as well, but they're not nearly as stark as those of 30-year-olds, even accounting for Jackson's amount of career work. Besides, fantasy owners as a whole appeared to have prepared for a slight drop-off, tabbing him the No. 13 running back and No. 33 player overall in terms of ADP this preseason. It marked the second consecutive season in which Jackson's ADP dropped; he was picked 11th and 19th respectively in 2011.
Third, for all of Jackson's injury issues -- which range back as far as 2007, incidentally -- he has appeared in 52 of 54 Rams games since the beginning of 2009. This is a guy who presses through pain as well as anyone.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Jackson's Consistency Ratings numbers support his candidacy as a week-in, week-out starter in any week in which he continues to avoid the inactives list. The only recommended change for Jackson's owners is to downgrade him to lower-end RB2/high-end flex status, rather than the high-end RB2 value at which he was drafted. In other words, perhaps he should've been selected 18th rather than 13th at his position, or in the fifth round rather than the fourth. But if you can accept that decline in value, arguably he should be an every-week player in his new value class.
Here's the telling stat: Since the beginning of 2010, the long-range time span we use for Consistency Ratings -- 2012 ratings alone can be found at column's end -- Jackson has the second-highest rate of games that ranged between Stud (top-five point total for a running back) and Stiff (outside the top 50 running backs). (Doug Martin is the only one better, and he has played only five career games.) A whopping 89.5 percent of the time, Jackson has scored you a point total that would neither have won nor ruined your week.
Another way to look at that: On 20 occasions in his past 52 games, Jackson scored between 8 and 15 fantasy points. No other running back has more than 18 such performances (LeSean McCoy).
Could Richardson's emergence change that? Perhaps, as Richardson is 22 and might have a more substantial place in the Rams' future. Could Jackson's injuries finally come back to haunt him? Again, perhaps, though it's worth noting that he wasn't on the injury report in Week 6, and he has 52 touches combined the past three weeks despite the groin problem that had been limiting him.
Jackson's owners might be eager to bail, especially examining his upcoming schedule that includes the New England Patriots (Week 8), San Francisco 49ers (Weeks 10, 13), Minnesota Vikings (Week 15) and Seattle Seahawks (Week 17) defenses. Tempering expectations is understandable. But I say this isn't the time to write him off; heck, he might even be a cheap trade target.
Consistency Ratings chart
Players are initially ranked in order of their Consistency Rating, calculated as the percentage of the player's scheduled games -- not games played, scheduled games -- in which his fantasy point total registered a "Start" score. All categories are sortable both ascending and descending; just click on the headers to sort. Players must have met at least one of the following minimums for inclusion in the chart: 20.0 percent Consistency Rating in standard scoring leagues, 20.0 percent Consistency Rating in PPR formats.
These statistics are for 2012 only. Statistics for games since 2010 can be found here.