Before such rash decisions should be considered, realize that while it appears Jackson is starting to wear down, he averaged 4.4 yards a carry and finished with over 1,100 yards. Also, not only does he have gas left in the tank, but he is the heart of the St. Louis franchise.
If there is any reason for the Rams to not trade Steven Jackson, it should because he has stuck with the team through thick and thin without complaints or trade demands. St. Louis should treat him the same way they did with Hall-of-Famer Marshall Faulk when his career was winding down. Bring in a young running back who can begin to take the reins over a couple of seasons.
Who could be this fresh face in St. Louis?
The most obvious name is Trent Richardson from Alabama. Unless there is a situation where the Rams trade back, Richardson shouldn't be playing in St. Louis. They would have to invest their first round draft choice (second overall) in order to take him. Richardson is a great player, but he wouldn't be worth drafting that high in St. Louis' case.
A pair of talented running backs will be left after Trent is selected. At this point, it's a coin toss between Virginia Tech running back David Wilson, and Lamar Miller from the University of Miami. Right now, analysts are projecting that these players will be selected in the late first round or early second.
Both of these guys are fantastic players, and they are virtually similar in every way. Miller only has an inch and seven pounds on Wilson, they both put up huge numbers in their first seasons as starters, and they will both likely run in the 4.4s at the NFL Combine.
Which Running Back Would You Prefer in St. Louis?
Personally, I think that Lamar Miller will be the better pro, and that he would be a tremendous fit with the Rams.
Miller was slowed by a shoulder injury in the second half of the season, but you can see in these highlights against Maryland the burst that makes him such a rare player. Particularly, his touchdown run at the :35 point in the video—you see him burst through the hole and go 40 yards untouched.
The concern with Lamar is that he has only seen significant action in this past season. When he was a redshirt freshman, he was primarily the big play change of pace running back. This season, after averaging 135 yards a game with 7.2 yards a carry in the first five games, his numbers fell to 76 yards a game with 4.5 yards a carry in the last seven.
So durability could be a concern, but as mentioned earlier, he suffered a shoulder injury that required offseason surgery in the third game and continued to play.
Despite the shoulder injury, he is still highly regarded by the likes of ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.
“He’s got great ability and great breakaway ability. It remains to be seen as to whether he’ll be able to hold up size wise as an every down back in the NFL but worst-case scenario he’s a 20 carry a game guy with constant home run threat ability. He’s a definite first round pick.”
That's a big complement from somebody with a reputation as good as Kiper's. Definite first round pick seems like a stretch, however, seeing how running back isn't considered a position to build a franchise around like quarterbacks and lineman are.
Plus, running backs aren't usually stars out of the gate in the NFL. Ryan Mathews is finally finding his flow in San Diego. Rookies Mark Ingram and Daniel Thomas have struggled. Knowshon Moreno and C.J. Spiller have yet to find their grooves.
The list goes on and on, but the point is Lamar could benefit from coming off of the bench behind Steven Jackson. He will learn how the plays develop from the sideline, and will learn from his mistakes when given the opportunity. Shoot, with Jackson's injury history, he may even start a few games.
Early in the second round of the NFL Draft in April, the St. Louis Rams could do a lot worse than draft Lamar Miller. It is a pick that could turn out to be a great choice in the long run, and there doesn't appear to be any doubt in the minds of Rams fans that St. Louis needs an heir to Steven Jackson.
Jackson could still be the lead back for a year or so, but in this scenario he would slowly fade into the background in a similar fashion to his predecessor, Hall-of-Famer Marshall Faulk.