2012 could be the year of the Jacksons!
The Jacksons that are currently touring the nation and singing “ABC” and “Can You Feel It?” are not the ones fantasy football owners are concerned about, though.
Fantasy owners care more about two premier pass-catchers named Jackson, one faster than the Lone Ranger’s trigger finger, the other tougher to stop downfield than LeBron James in the paint.
DeSean Jackson and Vincent Jackson are two receivers who can make fantasy owners giggle like Anderson Cooper when they are having great games.
They can both be downright uncoverable.
But are they each going to top the 1,000-yard mark in receiving this upcoming season? Both have massive talent, but both also have some issues to deal with.
So here is a look at two of the best Jacksons in fantasy football—St. Louis’ Steven Jackson is still the No. 1 Jackson—and what might be in store for both of them during the 2012 season.
DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles
It does not normally happen that a pending free agent has an off-year and then is rewarded with multimillions.
Players usually break the bank when they have banner seasons, make Pro Bowls and top the 1,000-yard mark, not when they drop countless passes, perform well beneath their abilities and get benched for insubordination.
Call Jackson a trailblazer.
Jackson complained as much about his contract last season as Jonathan Vilma has about Roger Goodell, yet Jackson was given a five-year, $47 million deal after what was, at least by his standards, a subpar season.
Jackson proved that he does not perform well when he believes he is underpaid. He failed to get 1,000 receiving yards after feeling that way the previous two seasons, only scored four touchdowns after scoring 17 between 2009-2010 and set career lows in rushing and return yards.
So maybe Jackson will put up better numbers now that he is arguably overpaid.
Since he finally has the financial security he sought, hopefully he will not short-arm the passes Michael Vick throws over the middle and will instead concentrate on catching the passes that hit him in the hands in the end zone.
I think Jackson will bounce back and that his fantasy value will return to what it once was.
Sure, defenses have grown wise to his speed and have created special coverages to curtail his 50-yard catches. But he still would have posted the same stats he always had in 2011 if not for the drops, missed games and poor play.
Jackson should be a top-20 fantasy receiver once again.
Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jackson was the most popular pass-catcher among this offseason’s free-agent crop and was doused with millions by the Buccaneers, who needed a No. 1 receiver as badly as they need cornerbacks who stay away from alcohol and firearms.
But before fantasy owners begin penciling Jackson in for his fourth 1,000-yard year in five seasons, they better consider a couple differences between Jackson’s old team and his new team.
First of all, Josh Freeman is not Philip Rivers.
Rivers is one of the best passers in the NFL, especially on deep patterns, which are the ones Jackson runs best.
Freeman is coming off a slump-ridden season in which he threw 16 touchdown passes that were counteracted by his 22 interceptions.
And Freeman’s 74.6 quarterback rating was one of the lowest in the league.
For those fantasy owners who have not suffered any long-term memory loss, they remember how superb Freeman was in 2010, when his TD-to-INT ratio was a sparkling 25-to-6 and he looked like the next coming of Daunte Culpepper.
Who will be better in 2012?
So Freeman could get to Rivers’ lofty level soon if he smooths out his rough edges, but right now it looks as though Jackson will have to deal with a quarterback downgrade.
Secondly, Dallas Clark is not Antonio Gates, and Tampa Bay’s receiving corps overall is probably neither as talented nor as deep as San Diego’s.
Gates used to command double-teams that opened up secondary space for Jackson to run his fly and out routes. Clark is not going to garner those same double-teams. Maybe three or four years ago, but not now.
No. 2 receiver Mike Williams looked like a top target after an exciting rookie campaign, but he suffered through a sophomore slump last year when defenses grew wise to his strengths and weaknesses. He does not have blazing speed or big-play ability, which San Diego’s Malcolm Floyd has, so teams will likely single-cover Williams and choose to double-cover Jackson.
Preston Parker and Arrelious Benn are decent No. 3 and No. 4 receivers but hardly the types of talents that will take heat and attention off of Jackson when the ball is snapped.
The bottom line is that there is no question about Jackson’s talent; the questions are about his supporting cast.
But if Freeman bounces back to his 2010 form, Clark takes a dip into a fountain of youth and Tampa Bay’s other receivers keep defenses honest, Jackson should have around 1,175 yards and eight touchdowns.
Just do not be surprised if he falters due to his inconsistent teammates and because of the burden of living up to his huge contract.