If you’re reading this, congratulations! You made it to whatever the Week 15 version of your league’s playoffs are! If you didn’t and you’re reading this anyway, I’d just like to say that I appreciate your degenerate traits as I know, for I am one myself.
This isn’t a place where I like to toot my own horn because ultimately it doesn’t do you any good. I am going to make an exception this week, though. I may not have hit the mark on last week’s waivers being full of poison pills, as most of them did produce respectably last week. However, those same options are leaving owners wondering what to do with them this week, which is exactly why I didn’t want anything to do with them. None of them possessed the right ingredients to sustain through our playoffs; except for one anyway.
I didn’t go into depth about Justin Jackson last week, but I did say if I were in a real jam then he’d be the bullet I’d fire. The reason I didn’t go into any depth was due to Austin Ekeler, but as of this writing I do not expect him to be available this week. So if you already had to go get him I’m about to tell you why to feel confident in him. If you didn’t and he’s still out there, then I’m about to tell you why he’s priority No. 1. And, with less competition going after waivers, here’s hoping you can still get him.
His profile is actually a very simple one to diagnose. If he were bigger then he’d be a feature back in the league. Really. That’s it. I think there’s a valid argument he could be at his size, but the NFL is slow to adapt. If they’re given a 6-foot running back less than 200 pounds then he isn’t going to be relied on to shoulder the load … until they have to. That’s exactly the situation the Los Angeles Chargers have found themselves. Can Jackson sustain over an extended period of time or is he more of a one-off option? In this specific scenario, it doesn’t matter. You need him for one or two weeks and sustainability is irrelevant for 2018’s purposes. We can cover that at a later date, but today we’re only worried about Weeks 15 and 16 in 2018.
For these two weeks this is why Jackson is a fixture in your lineup – production, volume, efficiency, balance, agility, vision, willingness to take on blockers, ability to get open in the passing game, and his best trait – pad level. How does a smaller, leaner player win at the point of attack? Leverage. I don’t remember ever watching a player in college who consistently ran with the leverage that Jackson showed. When you add that to his ability to read where to take the play and the smoothness in-and-out of his cuts, it becomes clear how a smaller player is able to accumulate what he did throughout his collegiate career. He takes on those bigger players and consistently drives through them because he puts himself in position to successfully finish the play while also being the one to administer punishment rather than absorb it. Whether inside, outside, counter, sweep or anything else you may throw at him, he shows the same traits every single time. He’s never looking to break the big play; he’s looking to make what that play says he’ll get. Then he’ll get at least an extra couple of yards because of his style of running. And if the play gets him one-on-one with a defender in space, good luck. Whether it through you, around or some combination, it’s difficult enough to slow him down, let alone bringing him down.
Will this translate to the professional level? Over an extended period of time I’d be lying if I said I knew, but we also don’t need to know that answer right now. We just need to know if he can do it Week 15 in Kansas City – and there’s no reason to believe he can’t. It certainly helps that he’s going up against one of the league’s poorer run defenses in Kansas City. Kansas City designed its defense as one that can play well with a lead, having players like Allen Bailey and Chris Jones up front that win at the point of contact. Their play allows for Dee Ford and Justin Houston more space to make plays on the quarterback. Unfortunately inconsistent play in the secondary hasn’t allowed Kansas City to play as aggressively as it intended, so the team’s approach has been more of a bend-but-don’t break. As a result the team is tied for last with 5.1 yards per attempt allowed and also in the Bottom 5 in touchdowns against, having yielded 15. The only team that hasn’t ran all over Kansas City since October has been the Los Angeles Rams and that’s because they had enough success through the air 413 yards, 4 TD) in their 54-51 epic to not worry about running the ball much. The Chargers have more than enough firepower in the pass game to keep pace, so there’s very little game script risk in deploying Jackson in this situation.
This week’s “Flavor of the Week” is: Chipotle.
No, this is not a pot shot at Chipotle’s recent run of bad news. Once upon a time Chipotle was an extremely popular private company. It’s sudden and dramatic rise was not due to circumstance; it was genuine. Where we are now with Jackson is little different. It’s easy to see the short term window for success. Long term, we’ll see what happens once it becomes a household name. That’s not something we need to worry about in our trek for a title.