Even GM Billy Devaney has acknowledged the pursuit has become a punchline within his family.
So far, the search has come up empty. The best thing you can say about the Rams' failed attempts to land a back up RB is at least this management group didn’t waste a first-round pick on Trung Candidate.
Depending on what type of back the Rams are looking for, they may want to draft another back from Oregon State like they did with Jackson.
If the Rams want an all-around type of back in the later rounds who can carry the load if Steven Jackson were to be injured—along with being a change-of-pace back—they should go with a player like Taiwan Jones, DeMarco Murray or Bilal Powell.
But if a change-of-pace, third-down back to spell Jackson is what the Rams are looking for, then Jacquizz Rodgers could be a perfect fit.
Physically, Rodgers is a shifty, bouncy runner who makes people miss. For a guy measured just under 5’6” at the combine and listed at 191 lbs in college, he doesn’t shy away from contact either. He has good hands too, as he caught 151 passes in his college career, including 78 as a sophomore.
Along with his small stature, the other knock on Rodgers is his lack of top speed. He was clocked at an underwhelming 4.67 at the NFL combine, but ran a 4.47 according to most reports at his pro day.
But what he lacks in top speed, he makes up for in his quickness and cutting ability. He can stop on a dime and has good football speed, which makes him a great fit to be the change-of-pace back for the bruising, beastly Jackson.
But along with forming a balanced tandem in skill sets on the field, having a fellow former OSU Beaver to back up Jackson could lead to a much smoother co-existence between the two backs than picking someone Jackson doesn’t know, hasn’t rooted for or doesn’t have a common connection with.
Drafting a player who a veteran may perceive as their potential replacement can lead to a sticky situation.
Recently Jackson spoke to WXOS-FM in St. Louis about the Rams potentially taking a running back early in the draft.
"I'm kind of up in the air on that,” Jackson said.
“I think right now while I'm still young, that I still have the ability to carry the team and carry the load, I'd rather us go get someone on the outside, some more skill players, some more guys on defense to help this team come along while I’m able to still youthfully do my job at a high level.”
Jackson continued, saying:
“Everyone knows how strongly I feel and take pride in being one of the few featured backs, three-down running backs in the league. That being said, it can be viewed as being selfish, but I don't see it as being selfish.
"I see it once again sacrificing for the betterment of the team. Let's find some more guys around me; let's continue to build a team around me and as the years go by, we can find that solid backup. But let's not push the issue."
It’s obvious Jackson doesn’t feel he needs someone to share the load with, and that’s fine. He is a true feature back and is very capable of playing all three downs.
But the truth is every team needs a capable back-up running back, even if they’re not using a two-back system.
Most NFL analysts and fans watching the 2004 NFL draft assumed the Dallas Cowboys were going to pick Jackson. Instead they traded down, sending the 22nd overall pick to Buffalo who took quarterback J.P. Losman.
At that point the Rams wisely pounced on an opportunity to pick Jackson. They knew they needed to find the heir apparent to Hall-of-Famer Marshall Faulk and traded up two spots with Cincinnati to make Jackson the first running back picked in the ’04 draft.
When the Rams picked Jackson, Faulk was 31 years old, hadn’t played all 16 games since 1999 and hadn’t rushed for 1,000 yards since 2001. His knees were wearing down, and he would eventually retire after the ’05 season.
The Rams are not in that situation now, which is another reason the they can go with a change-of-pace, scat back rather than a 25-carry type of runner.
Jackson is only 27 and has proven he is quite possibly the toughest running back in the league. He’s played though back and groin injuries, and a broken hand.
He keeps himself in impeccable shape, and even uses alternative therapies to treat his injuries, along with old-fashioned ice baths. Jackson probably has three to four more seasons of being a very productive back, given his size and the improved artificial turf in the NFL today.
Faulk and Jackson’s relationship was a bit cold. Faulk was a fiery, prideful competitor like Jackson and wasn’t ready to relinquish his role as the starting running back. Jackson was an eager, immature player, who felt he could be a feature back right away and should get more touches based on his ability.
Their relationship is actually very good today. Any tension between the two at the time and in the few years following Faulk’s retirement was based on competitive tension of a vet who didn’t want to be phased out and a young man who didn’t quite know how to handle himself professionally at the time.
But if Jacquizz Rodgers is the pick for the Rams to back up Steven Jackson, it’s more likely Jackson will rooting for Rodgers and embrace his back-up.
It’s all the more reason drafting a complementary back from Jackson’s alma mater is the right move for the Rams.