Steven Jackson to Atlanta?

Rumor of soon to be deal would be good fit

You know it's the dead time of the off-season when the trade rumors are swirling, reports of players opting out of contracts and heading into the 2013 NFL free agent market, and teams reportedly ready to cut players if they aren't willing to restructure contracts.

Ahhhh! The time between the end of the NFL scouting combine and the beginning of the new league year!

For those who don't know, the new NFL year begins on March 12. That's the first day teams can sign available free agents and make trades. And there are expected to be a few that happen right out of the gate. One that is being speculated on right now, but might not happen right away is the rumor of St. Louis Rams RB Steven Jackson to the Atlanta Falcons.

Jackson holds the ability to become a free agent in 2013 or not. He has until March 12th to exercise a player option for a 1 year, $7 million deal to stay with St. Louis. He can either accept that, or decline it, and become an unrestricted free agent. While many prior reports had indicated that Jackson's preference is to work out a long term deal to stay with St. Louis, at the scouting combine rumors began to swirl that Jackson was indeed ready to decline the option, become a free agent, and that his preference is to finish his career with a team that can contend for a Super Bowl. Realistically, while anything is possible, it doesn't appear that the Rams are ready to make that jump up in the next couple of seasons.

The primary team mentioned so far has been the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons need to replace rapidly declining Michael Turner and while Jackson isn't young anymore himself (Turner is 31; Jackson turns 30 in July), Jackson has yet to show the decline in skills that Turner has shown. In 2012 Jackson still ran as tough as ever (averaging 4.1 yards per rush attempt and eclipsing 1,000 rushing yards for an 8th consecutive season), and with his superior skills as a pass catching RB, he could excel for a couple of years as a featured RB still within the Falcons offensive system, if his body can hold up. Luckily, Jackson is known for keeping his body in top shape and he hasn't experienced the letdown some other RB's who have accumulated the amount of mileage he has.

Let's go ahead and suppose Jackson were to go the free agent route, and did sign with Atlanta. What would this mean for his fantasy prospects?

If you look at Jackson's stats every season since the 2005 season, you'll see that in standard fantasy football scoring systems (both ppr, and non-ppr); he has never finished worse than the 17th overall highest scoring RB. A couple of years he's been in the top 10, and even in the top 5 twice. He's been a steady, reliable contributor on a Rams team that hadn't finished a single season in that span with a winning record. Most of those seasons, Jackson has barely had even an adequate supporting cast around him in the offense.

If he can be that reliably good over that span of time on a bad offensive team that rarely put the fear of a passing attack in opposing defenses, imagine how much better he would be on a team like the Falcons, with an emerging into an elite QB Matt Ryan? Matt Ryan who has both emerging stud WR Julio Jones and still better than most WR's Roddy White? Jackson could be the missing piece for the Falcons offense so it has no holes. He would likely still be able to put up his annual 1,000+ rushing yards, catch another 40-50 passes, and (unlike in any single season since 2006) score more than just 8 total TD's.

Now personally, I would hate to see Jackson go anywhere (after all, I am a Rams fan and would prefer to see the Rams all-time rushing yards leader in the franchise stay with St. Louis). But as a fantasy owner? Seeing Jackson go to Atlanta? He'd challenge to move into my top 10 2013 fantasy football RB rankings. The fit is that good.