I was wrong.
In fact, it appears that I may have been very wrong. I don’t like to admit things like that, especially when I consider myself to be a very good judge of talent and ability of current and would-be rookies. It is one thing to take a flier in the late first round on someone like RB Chris Henry with little else intriguing left on the rookie board, but it is another thing altogether when, during the same year (2007), I took Brandon Jackson at #4. In my defense, 2007 has been largely a bust outside of the top 3 drafted that year (Peterson, Lynch and Calvin Johnson), and realistically only Peterson has lived up to his billing.
Coming out of Nebraska, I loved everything that I saw out of Jackson. A quick, smooth running back with great hands and a good motor. He was elusive in the open field and possessed a nice change of direction and fluid hips. He played with great vision and seemed to be able to feel the hole and burst through it when it appeared. Fast forward to 2010 and how things have changed.
I’ve been waiting for Jackson to get the opportunity to carry the load once again. When given his first chance, his blitz recognition and pass protection skills were ridiculously poor, not uncommon for rookies. It just so happened that Ryan Grant emerged after being obtained from the New York Giants and Jackson was relegated to no more than the occasional third down opportunity.
Still with a good hands and fair enough in the open field, Jackson was the hot pick up in week week 2 after Grant was lost for the year. In leagues across the nation, coaches were expending their entire bid dollar allotment to add Jackson and trades were being finalized at a torrid pace. For patient coaches, holding Jackson from 2007, it appeared that our patience was now about to pay off. Only adding fuel to the fire, Green Bay’s potent offense was playing Buffalo in week 2, a near certain big game for Jackson was in the cards. It just didn’t pan out.
It’s easy enough to forgive a 11 carry, 29 yard performance, salvaged by a goal line TD. Perhaps even a 7 for 12 performance against a swarming Chicago defense. Clearly, however, the writing is on the wall. Coach Mike McCarthy has all but come out and expressed that the coaching staff has all the confidence in Jackson but not as a carry-the-load back. More than two sub-par performances, this fact is critical in your valuation of Jackson. The immediate addition of Dmitri Nance off the Falcon’s practice squad was an indication that, indeed, Jackson will not be expected to get the majority of touches and that Green Bay is now clearly a Running Back By Committee (RBBC).
I watched all of Jackson’s carries. What happened? Taking the hand-offs from Rodgers, he looked slow, over-weight and had little confidence in his moves or approach to the line of scrimmage. Only when counted on in the passing game did Jackson show a level of ability that reminded me of what I saw coming out of Nebraska. In the open field, Brackson still has that fluidity than I hoped to see in his running game, but it isn’t evident anywhere else but as a receiver – at least at this point. There seems to be little urgency in Jackson’s game.
Obviously, should Jackson get the hot hand, Green Bay will likely increase his opportunities. Jackson does seem to have a nose for the end-zone inside the five yard line and, as mentioned, is a capable receiver. But up for grabs are approximately 15 carries of workload that, if seized, could produce a low end RB1 or very high RB2. With the current mix of Jackson, Kuhn and Nance, none can be played with any level of confidence.
Further muddying the situation is that drafted rookie James Starks is due to return near mid season. Starks looks much like the injured Grant, but is a significant threat out of the backfield in the passing game. Starks was drafted with the hope that he would eventually become an every down back. “Eventually” may begin during week 8.
For Jackson owners, there is no need to panic or make rash moves. He has significantly underperformed on all levels in two weeks, but that is not to say that he cannot resurrect his game in the weeks to come. Green Bay’s offense is as high powered as they come and you can expect that opposing D’s will key on the pass going forward, unafraid of the current trio of backs – well they should. Opportunities will exist for Jackson, but even though he faces Detroit in week 3, he cannot be started unless your situation is dire.
Note, too, that Jackson is a free agent in 2011. His future dynasty value squarely rests on what he shows over his next 13 games. Should he be become a significant producer in the run-game, Jackson may get an opportunity to compete for a starting gig in 2011. It is far more likely, at least in my eyes, that Jackson returns to a third down specialist role wherever he finishes out his career. But, in that statement lies the fact that he may be a great buy low candidate.
Jackson has the perfect situation. He’s the RB1 in a high-octane offense without proven talent behind him. A great Detroit match-up lies ahead and opportunities should be plentiful. Whether he can take advantage of them is another question entirely.
Dynasty Value – Falling.
You can find Jeff on Twitter at @dlf_jeff