Fantasy Scrambler: Running Backs with Local Ties Prove Fantasy Value

Steven Jackson left St. Louis and joined former Beaver JaQuizz Rodgers in Atlanta.
Steven Jackson left St. Louis and joined former Beaver JaQuizz Rodgers in Atlanta.

Everyone across the country is familiar with the high powered offenses of the Oregon Ducks. Rolling up scores that look more like basketball.

Indeed, there have been a lot of talented running backs to come out of Eugene and make names for themselves in the NFL. Names like LaGarrette Blount, Jonathan Stewart, LaMichael James, and most recently, Kenjon Barner.

Although Oregon State’s profile is not quite as pervasive as the Nike-sponsored Ducks, they, too, have put out a couple of decent running backs that are now fixtures on fantasy rosters everywhere. I’m talking, of course, of the veteran Steven Jackson and the third year pro Jacquizz Rodgers.

With Jonathan Stewart’s ankles keeping him sidelined for now, the highest producing running back out of this group is Steven Jackson of Atlanta. Jackson moves on to Super Bowl contender Atlanta Falcons after they did not resign Michael Turner.

This move is huge for Jackson who put up significant numbers for perennial losers, the St Louis Rams for years. Turner was good last year, but obviously had lost a step. Although S-Jax is winding down his career, he still has a little gas left in the tank and I believe will be motivated to prove that he is the missing piece to put the Falcons over the top. Jackson will be running behind the same line that Turner had last year so I see no reason why he won’t be a fantasy stud again this season.

Add to this that Jackson is a much better receiver than he gets credit for and that he is now a part of one of the highest scoring offenses in the league. Because of these factors, Jackson’s average draft position (ADP) is No. 17 according to ESPN Fantasy live draft results and is well worth being a low end RB 1 or a high end RB 2 on your draft board.

Jackson’s backup in Atlanta is Jacquizz Rodgers. A player Atlanta picked to be a third down back but have come to realize that he is much more valuable than that. He also returns kicks, is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, and despite his small stature, is a stout pass blocker.

I’m sure ‘Quizz is disappointed that he wasn’t given the starting job after Turner’s departure, but when you are able to get a player of Jackson’s caliber, you have to take him. Rodgers will have to be patient and keep producing when given the opportunity.

Rodgers is currently being drafted by 83 percent of the leagues on ESPN. He is still just a flex option worthy of a late round flier unless something unforeseen happens to Jackson.

LaMichael James is backing up Frank Gore for the Super Bowl runner’s up San Francisco 49’ers. He showed flashes last year of what made him a Heisman candidate at Oregon. Like Rodgers, James is used mostly on third down and in the kick return game.

ESPN fantasy owners have made James the 52nd running back taken in mock drafts so far. He, too, must maximize his touches while being the back up. James is considered a late round flier in deep leagues.

LaGarrette Blount has made it onto the Patriot’s high octane offense, providing much needed power in the backfield. His position on the depth chart behind Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, however, doesn’t make him a viable option for fantasy owners.

Nevertheless, keep an eye out for him on the waiver wire later on this season as injuries start to decimate fantasy line ups. Blount has power and speed and has produced in the past with Tampa Bay and was nearly unstoppable during his career with the Ducks.

Kenjon Barner is still trying to break into Carolina’s already crowded backfield, but if he manages to stick with the Panthers he should be considered by dynasty owners because he is an exciting runner with much of the same skill set that LaMichael James is showcasing in San Francisco.

Fans of the Beavers and the Ducks should be proud of the running backs the two schools have put into the NFL recently and should also be savvy enough to get them onto their fantasy rosters.

Brian Maahs
Brian Maahs is an avid sports fan, fisherman and youth football coach. When he's not reviewing Portland's best sports bars, he's usually researching fantasy football or planning his next fishing trip.