By some measures, Jackson's 2014 campaign was his worst since he became a regular part of the Bills' backfield in 2008, as he posted his lowest YPC and scored fewer touchdowns than ever. C.J. Spiller's collarbone injury pushed Jackson into the starting role for a spell, but his own ankle and groin injuries eventually surfaced, and he failed to play 16 games for the third time in four seasons. Even when healthy, the 34-year-old doesn't wow anyone with his foot speed, but his vision and patience serve him well, and he runs with tremendous power that allows him to pick up yards after contact. His hands, route-running and blocking all remain excellent, and even in an otherwise down year he set career highs in targets, catches and receiving yards. With Robert Turbin dealing with a high ankle sprain in advance of Week 1, Jackson was signed by Seattle to step into a backup role in the team's backfield behind Marshawn Lynch and ahead of Christine Michael. While Jackson is zero threat to challenge Lynch's position atop the Seattle RB depth chart, his new assignment puts him an injury away from fantasy relevance and a worthy late-round target for those looking insure Lynch.
Jackson, pressed into heavier-than-expected work by C.J. Spiller's ankle issues, delivered a surprisingly valuable 2013 campaign, improving his rushing average to 4.3 from the prior year's 3.5 while setting new career highs in touchdowns and receptions. Despite the 32-year-old's always-lingering knee problems as well as a late-season rib injury, he also played 16 games for the first time since 2010.
It's hard to expect a repeat this year. The Bills have long intended to hand Spiller a full-time role, but were forced to protect his ankle last season; now that he's healthy, Jackson's role seems likely to dip into the range of 100-150 carries, though his usefulness in the pass game should mean he retains PPR value. Jackson saw a huge increase in goal-line carries last year, too, toting 15 times from inside the five, and his 6-1, 216 frame should still be heavily utilized there this season.
The Bills dealt for Bryce Brown during the draft to figure into the mix, too, but he shouldn't significantly cut into Jackson's carries as long as he can stay healthy. That said, it should be noted that 33 years old is quite ancient in running back terms. Even though Jackson is a relatively low-mileage guy, the league's oldest running back has been near-constantly bothered by injuries for the last three seasons.
The 32-year old Jackson played only 10 games last season, as multiple knee injuries cost him time at the beginning and end of the year. In Jackson's absence, C.J. Spiller emerged as a dynamic playmaker, averaging a league-leading 6.0 YPC. Jackson's role should continue to diminish this season with a new coaching staff that won't be quick to sit Spiller, though it's possible Jackson's still able to vulture some goal-line work.
Jackson was the NFL’s leading rusher when he went down with a fractured right fibula in Week 11 last year, and the former undrafted back also had 442 receiving yards at the time, making him one of the bigger surprises in fantasy football. He was as impressive as it gets, leading all backs with 5.5 YPC (minimum 100 rushing attempts), thanks in no small part to an NFL-high 3.75 YPC after contact. Pro Football Focus graded Jackson as the best blocking back in the league, and he also had zero drops. Still, he’s coming off a serious injury, will be 31.5 years old this season (a dangerous age for running backs) and will have to compete with C.J. Spiller for touches. Jackson signed a two-year extension in the offseason and should enter the year as the favorite to get the most touches in the team’s backfield, but it will almost certainly be a timeshare of some sort, as Spiller really proved himself in Jackson's absence and the Bills would like to have him much more active than the first part of 2011.
Jackson was something of an afterthought entering 2010, as the Bills used the No. 9 overall pick to draft C.J. Spiller and still had Marshawn Lynch on their roster. After Spiller proved unready for the NFL and Lynch was traded, Jackson once again was the last man standing. In fact, after Lynch was jettisoned, Jackson totaled 1,055 yards with six touchdowns over 12 games. His eight dropped passes were most among running backs, but he also improved greatly in pass protection. With a young and unproven offensive line, Buffalo isn’t an ideal situation, but Ryan Fitzpatrick gives the team a better QB in 2011 than a handful of teams who will be relying on rookies. In the end, though, Jackson’s value ultimately comes down to Spiller’s development. Unless Spiller takes great leaps, Jackson will yet again be an underrated and productive fantasy option.
Jackson was finally given a real chance last
season, and during 11 starts, he totaled 1,233
yards. He scored a rushing touchdown during
just one game, as his five goal-line attempts tied
for 40th in the NFL. That was actually more of
a function of playing on a bad offense, though,
as Marshawn Lynch was given only two attempts from in close. Jackson’s value took a major hit with the drafting of C.J. Spiller, and Jackson could end up losing some third-down or split wide work. He’ll remain the favorite for goal-line carries, and Lynch could still get traded, but Jackson is in a committee on a bad team, so he’s fighting an uphill battle. That said, he displays a very good runner/receiver combination and he's the best guy to own of the three backs in play. If Spiller or Lynch gets hurt, or if Lynch gets dealt or put on the bench, Jackson's numbers could take off again.
Jackson has averaged 4.6 YPC over his two-year career and is excellent as a receiver. While Marshawn Lynch is typically held in higher regard, the undrafted Jackson often looks more impressive, and he’ll be given the opportunity to shine with Lynch serving a three-game suspension to open the season. If Jackson gets off to a fast start, it’s possible he’ll earn more touches. He could be a monster if it ever worked out that he got a full workload. But as it stands, Lynch is still the main guy when he comes back, plus the Bills’ offensive line is shaky. However, with Terrell Owens now in Buffalo, the passing attack should improve, opening up the running game. Jackson is one of the better No. 2 backs to target in the fantasy landscape.
Jackson is a key guy for owners who draft Marshawn Lynch early in their drafts. He emerged as Lynch’s primary backup at the end of last season and averaged 53.2 rushing yards per game (5.4 yards per carry) over the last five weeks. In addition to being an explosive threat on the ground, Jackson demonstrated soft hands by snatching 22 receptions in just eight games. He seems like a safe bet to get 5-8 touches a week and presents great value at the end of drafts.
The Bills are eyeing Jackson as a future possible No. 2 back behind Willis McGahee. The Coe College product finished the season ranked second in NFL Europe with 731 rushing yards and was one of only two players with 1,000 yards from scrimmage (1,048 yards). While Anthony Thomas and Shaud Williams (and possibly Lionel Gates) are still ahead of Jackson on the depth chart, the Bills organization is not committed to keeping it this way. If Jackson gives a strong performance in the preseason, there is a small chance he will be backing up McGahee at the start of the regular season. That said, we feel Thomas and Williams are ahead of him now, and he'll have to beat out at least one of those two -- or Gates -- to make the team. Update: Released by the Bills in September of 2006.