Steven Jackson: Rams RB's Fantasy Struggles Will Continue vs Cardinals in Week 5

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2012

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 30: Running back Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams runs the ball during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at the Edward Jones Dome on September 30, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Rams beat the Seahawks 19-13.  (Photo by David Welker/Getty Images)
David Welker/Getty Images

Steven Jackson hasn't gained more than 84 total yards in a game, has yet to find the end zone and is trying to reach full strength after a groin injury slowed him down. In other words, things couldn't have gone much worse for the St. Louis Rams star so far.

It's certainly not the type of production fantasy football owners were expecting when they drafted Jackson, who has been one of the league's most reliable backs for the past seven years. His per-game rushing average is at its lowest point since his rookie season.

While it's possible his nearly 2,200 career carries are finally start to catch up with him, the more likely explanation for Jackson's struggles is a weak offensive line. The front five has struggled to open running lanes while also allowing quarterback Sam Bradford to get sacked 14 times already.

Considering the Rams are going up against an Arizona Cardinals defense that has fueled the team's surprising undefeated start, it's a trend that's not likely to change on Thursday night.

The Cardinals have contained opposing running backs so far, allowing just one rushing touchdown through four weeks even though they have faced dynamic backs like LeSean McCoy and Reggie Bush. It's been an impressive performance to say the least.

That's why it's tough to imagine Jackson bouncing back in Week 5. The combination of Arizona's defense and St. Louis' offensive line will make nearly every carry a struggle, not a favorable situation for a running back like Jackson.

The other issue working against him is the short week. Although the groin injury didn't appear to hamper him too much against the Seattle Seahawks, coming right back four days later will be a tough test for him to endure.

Unfortunately, fantasy owners don't have many options. They can start him and hope he's lucky enough to score a touchdown to give him a reasonable score, or bench him. His current trade value would make that option a poor choice.

Since owners likely had to spend a pretty early selection on the Rams running back, he's a key cog on fantasy teams. Trying to trade him after his brutal start certainly wouldn't produce a player in return who would be on the same level as a healthy, productive Jackson.

The best option is putting Jackson on the bench until either the Rams start facing some softer defenses in a couple of weeks or the offensive line situation gets figured out. Before then, his production will continue to disappoint.

All told, Jackson doesn't have much fantasy upside in Week 5.